Transitioning from Assisted Living to Long-Term Care

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There’s a lot of talk about how to handle transitioning your loved one from home to assisted living—but what about from assisted living to long-term care?

After all, it’s a fairly common transition that many seniors eventually face. As Paula Span writes in an article on assisted living for the New York Times, “however suitable assisted living may be when a resident moves in, the average stay is a little over two years, and the most common reason for moving out is needing more care than it can provide.”

So what happens when your parent needs more care than assisted living can provide? The answer is often a transition to skilled nursing and long-term care.

The Difference Between Assisted Living and Long-Term Care

To understand why a transition from assisted living to a more advanced degree of long-term care is often necessary, it’s helpful to know the difference between the two. Though the two options offer similar services and amenities, they represent different levels of care.

The National Institute on Aging offers this definition of assisted living:

“Assisted living is for people who need help with daily care, but not as much help as a nursing home provides. … Assisted living residents usually live in their own apartments or rooms and share common areas. They have access to many services, including up to three meals a day; assistance with personal care; help with medications, housekeeping, and laundry; 24-hour supervision, security, and on-site staff; and social and recreational activities. Exact arrangements vary from state to state.”

In contrast, skilled nursing facilities provide long-term care to seniors who need more help than assisted living can provide. Long-term care is for seniors who require some form of 24-hour nursing care. It could be that they have a chronic illness or injury, or are simply facing age-related challenges.


Related: 4 Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living


Making the Transition to Long-Term Care

If your loved one decides to move to an assisted living community, they will likely need to submit a medical history and physical. This is to ensure that they are a good fit for assisted living and that their needs can be met at the community.

However, their health needs may change in the future post move-in. For example, if a chronic health issue that led to their decision to move to assisted living worsens, they may need more support than assisted living can provide. Or they may face a new health challenge—while assisted living is designed to keep seniors healthy and active, they may face age-related conditions as time goes by.

If that’s the case, then a transition to a long-term care community that offers skilled nursing services may be necessary. This is why continuum of care is an important factor to consider when choosing an assisted living community. If your loved one is at an assisted living community that also offers long-term care services, then they won’t have to move communities—at most, they’ll have to move to a new apartment so their needs can be better met.

Who Decides When It’s Time?

The decision to move to long-term care from assisted living does not rest on the shoulders of the senior or their adult children. Rather, it’s a collective decision made by the resident, their family members and their care team at the assisted living community.

Assisted Living and Long-Term Care Resources

If you have any questions about assisted living and long-term care, our experts can help. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to help you find the right option for your loved one.