June 23, 2024
Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: Care and Cost Differences

What is assisted living?

Assisted living offers older adults a level of care that still preserves their privacy and independence. It’s for those who can partially live on their own but need assistance with daily routines, such as bathing, dressing, eating and more. Nurses and staff are on-site at all times to assist when needed.


Facilities are often structured like a community. Residents may have a private apartment or room, plus access to common areas. While the apartments may have full kitchens or kitchenettes, residents can also dine in common dining rooms where food is prepared for them.


Additionally, the communities offer a socialization aspect — residents can build relationships, attend classes and go on outings.


Assisted living services

Care services

Although available services can vary by facility and depend on an individual’s care plan, assisted living residences generally offer the following:


Housing in an apartment-style unit with 24-hour access to nurses and staff

Bathing, grooming and other personal care assistance


Nutritious meals and snacks, as well as eating assistance

Medication management and administration

Mobility assistance

Laundry and housekeeping

Some establishments also offer memory care for various types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This specialized care is typically facilitated in a smaller community within the assisted living facility. It can include designated nurses and staff members, exclusive dining areas and specialized activities

Additional services

Beyond daily personal assistance, some communities offer additional benefits, including:


Social activities, including community gatherings, classes and outings

Outdoor spaces

Fitness centers and pools

Recreational activities and areas


Libraries and shared computers

On-site health care from outside providers (e.g., dentist, mental health counseling and more)

On-site personal care (e.g., beauty salon or barbershop)

Assisted living admission requirements

Admission into assisted living communities depends on an individual’s condition and care needs. They must be in stable medical condition but need help performing activities of daily living (ADLs), such as:




Grooming (e.g., brushing their teeth, fixing their hair, etc.)



Taking medications on time

A facility can deny someone admission if their needs are beyond the scope of its services. Typically, those who need 24-hour monitoring and intensive medical attention aren’t eligible. If you’re unsure whether you or a loved one would qualify, ask your medical provider for their opinion.


Once the resident is admitted, the process often involves completing state- and facility-required paperwork regarding facility policies, payment information, legal requirements, care consent and more. The facility will also perform a health assessment to determine a care plan.

Is assisted living the best choice for your loved one?

Assisted living may be an excellent option for those who don’t need intensive medical care but would benefit from help with their everyday routines. It can offer the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved one will get the care they need while still living independently.


By fostering a sense of community, assisted living can improve your loved one’s lifestyle, making them feel safer and more engaged. If your loved one feels isolated while living at home, this arrangement may be fulfilling because of the socialization opportunities.


However, a nursing home may be more suitable if your loved one has a medical condition that requires constant care. It’s also important to think about future needs. If your loved one requires such care later in life, they may need to move from an assisted living residence to a nursing home.

Moving is a big adjustment, so consider how long your loved one can stay at an assisted living establishment.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes provide a higher level of care than assisted living facilities. In addition to helping residents with daily tasks, they provide attentive medical care for aging adults who cannot live independently due to medical conditions that require constant monitoring.


Living quarters are private or shared, depending on availability and the resident’s needs and preferences. Nursing homes are more home-like than hospitals but less private than assisted living communities due to necessary supervision.

Similar to assisted living facilities, nursing homes also provide social support programs that allow residents to interact with others and participate in activities.

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