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The Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

When it comes time for you or a loved one to make the transition from independent living into long-term senior care, knowing your options is an important first step.

If you’re inexperienced with elder care options, the differences may seem subtle at first glance. Making the right choice will depend on individual needs, preferences, and requirements. While assisted living and nursing homes look similar on the paper, the overall nature of the services they offer is quite different:

Assisted living facilities are residential homes intended for seniors that are mostly independent and looking for easier living. These homes are designed for those that are still mostly independent and can get through the majority of the day alone. They provide help with general activities like bathing, dressing, and food preparation but supervision is not provided 24/7.

Nursing homes are designed for those that need 24-hour, around-the-clock care because the staff provides help with nearly every aspect of the day. These facilities can be temporary, for those recovering from injury or illness, or permanent in cases of debilitation or immobility.


One of the main differences between assisted living and nursing homes to look at is cost. Right off the bat, it’s essential to point out that the cost for each will vary state to state, facility to facility, and according to individual needs.

Private rooms in assisted living facilities generally range from about $2,000 to $5,000 per month while private rooms in nursing homes generally range from $4,000 to $12,000 per month. Opting for a shared room is always a more affordable option and often services (such as laundry, grooming, etc.) cost extra. It is also important to note that Medicare does not cover assisted living (though Medicaid sometimes does) while it does cover many nursing home costs.


The community environment of assisted living facilities and nursing homes are very different from one another. Assisted living facilities are generally smaller and more spread out, consisting of individual small houses or apartment buildings. Nursing homes, on the other hand, usually consist of one or more primary buildings filled with personal rooms. They’re traditionally much more hospital-like than assisted living facilities with rooms that allow for less personalization. Generally speaking, assisted living features independent apartments with kitchens, bathrooms, and features similar to regular apartments; nursing homes often feature simple rooms with private or shared bathrooms and common areas for entertainment and dining.

Social Life

In general, assisted living facilities offer far more social activities and amenities than nursing homes. Residents in assisted living facilities are encouraged to establish lasting relationships and are generally more adept physically, socially, and mentally than those in nursing homes. Some assisted living facilities have swimming pools, gyms, classrooms, and even movie theaters. Nursing homes offer social activities throughout the day, although they tend to be more limited due to the focus on providing rehabilitation and medical care.

There are major differences between assisted living and nursing homes. Though they are different, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. With the right facility, you can be sure that your loved one is accommodated accordingly.


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