Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities 

By: Michelle Rosenheim – Executive Director of Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant (LVMG)

Nursing homes and senior living communities offer several benefits, but there are key differences, including primary focus, environment, levels of care, accommodations, and amenities that older adults should be aware of before choosing an option.

Nursing Homes: Round-the-clock Care and Supervision

With a focus on medical care – delivered by doctors, nurses, and aides – nursing homes are ideal for seniors who are dependent upon nursing care due to a physical or cognitive diagnosis. In addition, occupational, physical, and speech therapists are often on staff to help slow the progression of chronic conditions. Residents often live in nursing homes permanently because they require constant care and supervision.

Nursing homes provide residents with assistance for activities of daily living (i.e. dressing, bathing, medication management, eating, ambulating, and more). In Maryland, nursing homes are staffed 24/7 with at least one licensed nurse. The nursing team is ever present, keeping a watchful eye on each resident.

Accommodations can be private or semi-private rooms. Services such as nutritional counseling, therapy services, management of care, hospice care and end-of-life care are typically offered.

The goal of nursing homes: Delivering the highest level of care possible outside a hospital setting and helping each person stay as well-cared for and comfortable as possible.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC): Multiple Levels of Care Offer Independence

At CCRCs, resident independence and well-being are the primary focus. At Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant, independence is primarily supported through active aging, on-site amenities, and safety features.

Active Aging
A key driver of independence is living an active aging lifestyle. At LVMG, we promote active aging with stimulating activities from our lifelong learning classes and award-winning wellness program, Flourish™.

Our lifelong learning classes provide residents with many chances to feed their mind, body, and spirit. Whether it be researching history, creating a work of art, practicing mindfulness with Tai Chi and meditation, or discovering other interests, our lifelong learning classes – many of which are taught by college professors – provide residents with a chance to explore and grow.

Our Flourish™ wellness program offers residents endless opportunities to learn, create, give back, and, most of all, flourish. With a holistic approach to wellness, residents are inspired to reach their personal best based on seven dimensions of senior wellness – emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational.

Our on-site amenities also support independence. For example, when driving becomes an issue, residents can continue living with the independence they are accustomed to without having to sacrifice a fulfilling lifestyle.

Residents can continue being physically active in our fitness center, indoor pool, tennis court, and walking/biking trail. They can continue pursuing hobbies such as growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables in our resident garden plots, share their musical talents in our musical programs, hone their woodworking skills in our woodworking shop, cultivate their quest for knowledge and passion for reading in our library and connect with neighbors and friends over shared interests in our resident clubs (e.g., genealogy, bird watching, quilting and more) and resident committees (e.g., resident association, building, welcome, health and more). If they are looking for some light-hearted competition, they will find that at our billiards table, ping pong table, croquet court and corn hole, and bean bag tournament area.

Within short walking distance, residents have access to multiple dining venues, including Zest, our formal dining with wait staff and farm-to-table focus, and Bistro and Main Street Pub for casual dining. Many of our residents enjoy welcoming the morning in our Coffee Curve, sipping a cup of coffee or tea over light conversation with other residents. Whether it be Super Bowl, March Madness, Preakness, or other sporting events, our residents come to our Main Street Pub to watch the main event on its big screen TV while enjoying a specialty cocktail, beer or glass of wine, and small plate cuisines.

We also offer local transportation so residents can continue conducting their own errands (e.g., grocery shopping, checking out books from the local library, and venturing off for outside entertainment such as concerts and trips to cultural attractions). The best part is residents who continue to drive can take advantage of our transportation service as well, which can be especially helpful when they need to run an errand during less than ideal weather conditions.

CCRCs, like LVMG, are designed for safety, which goes a long way in supporting independence. Older adults are at a greater risk for falls, which can occur because of vision changes, inability to maneuver assistive devices (e.g., walker) in tight spaces, lack of safety features, and multiple other causes. Although some may be able to rebound just fine from a fall, others are not.

Understanding lighting needs for aging eyes, our apartments, homes, and community spaces are brightly lit and incorporate a lot of windows for natural lighting, which also offers nice views of our wooded community.

LVMG is designed and built with accessibility as a top priority. Spaces are constructed so all residents can move easily and safely from one area to another within their apartment or home and around the community, regardless of mobility challenges.

Bathrooms can be a prime location for falls, which is why our bathrooms are equipped with grab bars, elevated toilets, non-slip flooring, and easy-to-use fixtures in all residences.

Additionally, emergency call systems (i.e., pull cords and motion sensors) are installed in apartments, homes, and community spaces and are available as wearable pendants. Plus, with 24/7 staffing, help is available when needed.

Continuity and Levels of Care

When medical care and rehabilitation are needed, residents have access to our on-site rehabilitation services, which include physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and medical services, including primary care, podiatry, dermatology, behavioral health, and audiology. These health care services provide a continuity of care – making sure the right care is provided so residents can continue being independent as best as they are able.

As residents find they need a little more help – whether that be dressing, bathing, medication management, or specific treatments for a medical issue – they can seamlessly transfer to a greater level of care. Ever mindful of resident dignity and desire for independence, our approach to care is person-centered.

Our team tailors assistance and care according to each resident’s unique needs – delivering just the right amount of help needed. Our person-centered care approach helps each resident remain as independent as possible and enjoy his/her best quality of life.

The goal of CCRCs: Encouraging independence while enjoying life to the fullest at all levels of care and providing a seamless transition when care needs increase.

Nursing homes focus on providing medical care and can be an ideal solution when there is an immediate need for 24/7 care. CCRCs, like LVMG, are the best solution for older adults who can still live independently but want more out of life – than taking care of a home – and peace of mind knowing they can remain in the same community as their care needs increase.

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