Assisted Living Facilities – Sorting Marketing from Reality

Having and maintaining independence is important. This is especially true when you’re in the twilight years of life. This independence is constantly being threatened by chronic illness or the body’s natural response to aging.


Fortunately, there are hundreds of facilities spread all throughout the country that allow the elderly to maintain some form of independence. The problem often lies in consumers not knowing the differences between these places. As you will discover, there’s a significant difference between an assisted living facility (AL) and a nursing home.


The Presence of Medical Care

Assisted living facilities, while able to provide for the comfort of their residents, are not medical facilities. This means that they don’t require medically trained personnel (e.g. nurses, doctors, physical therapists) to be onsite on a daily basis. However, many of these facilities are often marketed in a way that implies that round-the-clock medical care is available. And this can create a misunderstanding for those residents with multiple complex and chronic medical issues.


The Presence of a Regulating Body

As they are non-medical in nature, assisted living facilities are not (or don’t necessarily consider themselves) subject to stringent regulation. Consequently, they don’t abide by the requirements set by the Departments of Public Health and Health Care Services, the way skilled nursing facilities do. Instead, regulation falls under the Department of Social Services and Community Care Licensing Division. Over the years, licensing inspection visits have been increased and is expected to be done annually by 2019.


Assisted living facilities also do not have a standard rating system. They have no version of Nursing Home Compare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services five-star rating system for nursing homes. A rating system is helpful to consumers who would like to make informed decisions when choosing an assisted living facility for their loved one.


The ‘hospitality’ myth

When there’s limited information out there, families looking at AL can easily fall prey to the so-called ‘hospitality myth’. Catherine Hawes director of the PAINS Project explains it like this, “They (families) don’t have realistic expectations … they walk into the facility and they’re guided through by the marketing person who makes a lot of promises about what’s available. They see the spiral staircase. They see the oriental rugs. They see the plants and they think: ‘This is great … Mom will have her own room, her own half bath … She can bring her own furniture.’ It’s what I would like. I just want to have a nurse there and I want to have enough staff.”


There’s nothing wrong with making creature comforts a priority when selecting homes for elderly loved ones. But it should not be the only priority. Family members need to be asking the right kind of questions. What level of medical care is available? Are there medical personnel present all throughout the day? How are medicines dispensed and who does it?



A person in their twilight years is bound to have the need for medical care at some level. At the end of the day, the best facility, whether an assisted living facility or nursing home, can be determined through extensive research and careful consideration. Ultimately, that facility should strike a balance between keeping you or your elderly loved one in the best health possible while allowing for independence.


Depending on what needs you are looking for, contact Oxbow Living Center today for more information on what we can provide your family.



Oxbow Living offers Assisted Living & Memory Care out of Nebraska and to the Surrounding Cities : Ashland, South Bend, Greenwood, Murdock, Elmwood, Ithaca, Mead