Convalescent Home vs Nursing Home vs Assisted Living

As the aging population in the United States continues to grow, many people are discovering that there are more retirement and senior care options available than just nursing homes. One popular option includes convalescent homes, oftentimes incorrectly referred to as nursing homes or even assisted living communities. So, just what’s the difference between convalescent homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, anyway?

What is a Convalescent Home and How Does It Work?

Convalescent homes are also known as inpatient rehabilitation facilities, or IRFs. The term “convalescent” itself refers to a recovering person, so it should come as no surprise that IRFs are facilities that offer highly specialized short-term care and rehabilitation services for people recovering from illnesses, injuries, and surgeries. Many people seek convalescent care after an intensive hospital stay to help them fully recover.

The ultimate goal of convalescent care is to help patients recover properly, so that they can leave the facilities and lead independent lives. To achieve this goal, staff offer rehabilitation therapy services to patients.

Also called:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation facility
  • IRF
  • Acute care facility

Services offered:

  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy

What is a Nursing Home and How Does It Work?

Nursing homes are also known as skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs. These facilities offer skilled nursing care services 24/7 to older adults and disabled people. Residents have medical needs that require intensive care, which includes medical care, memory care (at some locations), and assistance with activities of daily living, or ADLs. ADLs are personal care activities like bathing, toileting, and dressing.

Sometimes SNFs offer short-term rehabilitation services and even respite care. That said, the most well-known goal of SNFs is to provide 24/7, long-term care for residents.

Also called:

  • Skilled nursing facility
  • SNF

Services offered:

  • Assistance with ADLs
  • Palliative care
  • 24/7 medical care
  • Memory care for Alzheimer’s disease patients
  • Respite care

What is Assisted Living and How Does It Work?

Assisted living is a long-term senior living arrangement that offers less extensive services than nursing homes do, although their residents still require assistance with ADLs, such as medication management. Sometimes assisted living facilities offer memory care services or even short-term services like respite care.

Also called:

  • Assisted living facility
  • ALF
  • Assisted living community

Services offered:

  • Assistance with ADLs
  • Memory care
  • Respite care

Convalescent Home vs Nursing Home vs Assisted Living – What’s the Difference?

While there is some overlap between the IRFs, SNFs, and ALFs, they are not the same. The primary difference between them is how long their residents require help. IRFs serve people who need short-term rehabilitation whereas SNFs and ALFs primarily provide 24/7 care to long-term residents.

They also differ in the type of care they offer. IRFs primarily offer rehabilitation services, while SNFs and ALFs, at their core, are senior living communities that offer residential care services. SNFs and ALFs differ in the level of care they offer patients. In other words, nursing home patients typically require greater levels of care than assisted living residents do.