Transitioning from Assisted Living to a Nursing Home

Assisted living is a type of long-term living arrangement for seniors or people with special needs and disabilities that offers a combination of health care, personal care, and housing services.

May 28, 2021 — by Holly Klamer

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a type of long-term living arrangement for seniors or people with special needs and disabilities that offers a combination of health care, personal care, and housing services.

The idea of assisted living is to help individuals find the assistance they need to handle their everyday activities in a manner that gives them as much independence, flexibility, and the freedom to live in a comfortable home-like setting as possible.

Difference between Assisted Living Facilities vs. Skilled Nursing Homes

The biggest difference between assisted living and nursing home-based living is that the latter is more of a clinical or hospital-like setting, where individuals can receive personal and medical care around the clock.

Although assisted living lacks some of the medical care present in a skilled nursing home, there is some degree of medical care available as needed, especially in the more upscale assisted living homes. Assisted living facilities focus on maximizing the quality of life of their residents and emphasize independent living as much as possible with the oversight of medical professionals, housekeepers and other assistance as necessary. Many seniors prefer assisted living over a nursing home.

However, for people in need of constant medical care and supervision or who are at risk of injury or death without constant care, a nursing home is a better option.

When’s the Right Time to Move to a Nursing Home?

You will find that most assisted living communities lack skilled nursing services but do offer some rehabilitative or memory care assistance.

Assisted living facilities often work with a variety of home care agencies, therapists and nurses who can dispense medication and medical or rehabilitative services, but you may have to pay extra fees for that. Some facilities also may offer temporary skilled nursing care, but it may not be enough for those who need round-the-clock medical supervision and care for a longer term.

So, if your loved one needs regular medical monitoring, then it might be the right time to transition that person to a nursing home. Here’s one more thing to consider – most assisted living facilities and memory care centers do not accept Medicaid. So, if your loved one relies on Medicaid, then nursing care might be the only option left.

How Can You Prepare Someone for the Move to a Nursing Home?

Moving or transitioning from an assisted living facility to a nursing home can be challenging. At times, it can even be traumatic. Most of it depends on the quality of nursing home that you end-up moving to. If the person is used to living in an upscale or high quality assisted living facility and winds up in a slightly poorer or lower-end nursing home, the change could be fairly dramatic and difficult for that person.

Even though your loved one will receive better medical care in a skilled nursing home, including memory care, the whole setting may feel more like a hospital and less like a retirement home. That lack of warmth could be tough for many.

However, if you can manage to find a nursing home that appears less clinical or resembles the look and feel of “home,” it could make a big difference in terms of atmosphere and help with the transition.

This transition is usually most difficult for someone who is used to living in a private room in an assisted living facility. Suddenly switching to a Medicaid-supported bed in a hospital-like setting can be tough. Partnering up with a roommate could make things even more stressful.

To ease the pain of this transition, you can:

  • Explain to your loved one that while you would love to provide a private room, the funds available simply do not support that lifestyle.
  • Do your best to make your loved one’s room as personalized and home-y as possible, with some familiar décor, family pictures, etc.
  • Look for a nursing home that creates a good separation between residents inside their rooms. Some nursing home rooms only have curtain separators, although many now offer portable dividing walls that give the illusion of a double room. You’ll have to look around and compare nursing homes. Many offer tours and photos on their websites so you can get a good idea of how they look before you make the move.
  • Help your loved one get adjusted to a new roommate, and position it as a way for greater socialization, rather than as a violation of privacy. In the end, your loved one may end up making some good friends at the nursing home. And there’s nothing quite like the warmth of friendship to keep you cheerful.
  •  Be prepared for a certain amount of complaining and resistance. It’s completely natural for your loved one to not be entirely satisfied with the transition to a nursing home. It’s important to emphasize all of the advantages though, such as the increased amount of safety, care and attention by nurses, physicians, and CNAs in case of medical emergencies, especially if your loved one suffers from conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic health issues, or is prone to falls.

Bottom Line

Despite some initial complaining and resistance, be patient and understanding. It’s only a matter of time before your loved one settles into the space and becomes more accustomed to his or her new living conditions. Being there to support your loved one throughout the transition process goes a long way to making the move to a nursing home a positive experience.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Elder Law Group. We do not endorse or support the organizations or linked websites mentioned in this article, and we do not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter, or their financial advisor regarding financial matters. 


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