Senior Resources » Assisted Living Vs Nursing Homes: What’s The Difference?

Assisted Living Vs Nursing Homes: What’s The Difference?

According to a report by Consumer Affairs, there are over 8 million adults per year receiving some sort of long-term care. Around 26 percent of those people reside in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Consumer Affairs asserts that the number will increase profoundly in the next several years. If nothing else, that’s a pretty good reason to get familiar with these types of care.


Both assisted living and nursing homes provide the same essential services – personal care assistance, medication management, housekeeping, wellness activities, and meal preparation. Both feature amenities and recreational opportunities, as well as enrichment for residents and families.

 So, with all that in common, what features could possibly separate the two?

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Nursing homes provide a higher level of medical care than assisted living.

True, both are long-term care options that employ provide 24-hour emergency services. However, specialized care for declining health is more typical in a nursing home. Think of it this way: a nursing home is for seniors who don’t need a hospital but do need continuous medical attention.

Assisted living offers some medical services, but not all. Help with activities of daily living is at the forefront of life here. Personal care assistants ensure the safety of residents and help them maintain their quality of life.

Nursing homes offer less privacy, but more care.

Assisted living is long-term care designed to be comfortable and homey. Residents live in private units or apartments. They usually have their own kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. Some facilities will even allow tenants to bring their own furniture. 

Nursing homes are buildings made up of individual or shared quarters and communal spaces. Though each room usually has its own bathroom, all other spaces are shared. There are dining rooms and other common areas for socialization and leisure activities.


There is generally more privacy when residing in assisted living. Nursing homes offer around-the-clock medical monitoring, so staff has constant access to each room, whereas the former is laxer in the evening hours.

Food service differs.

In assisted living, the idea is for residents to maintain as much independence as possible. Most units will have their own kitchen, so residents are encouraged to cook for themselves (if they can do so safely). However, there are frequently meal services available.

A nursing home has food service staff who prepares and serves meals in a communal dining area or individual rooms if a resident requires bed rest. Special attention is also given to those who have dietary restrictions.

Nursing home care is about double the cost of assisted living.

The average monthly cost of assisted living is $4,500.

The average monthly cost of a semi-private nursing home room is $7,908. A private room, $9,034.


Medicare coverage is possible – but under some pretty specific circumstances for each.

Medicare does not pay for long-term care. However, it will pay for some medically necessary services within assisted living, as well as nursing homes.

Seniors residing in assisted living, who are still seeing their regular physician or receiving other outside medical services may use Medicare for coverage as usual. Some medical care received in assisted living will be covered by Medicare if it is prescribed by a doctor. It must also be classified as medically necessary. It’s always best to check your policy.

If a short-term stay in a nursing home is preceded by hospitalization, Medicare will fully cover expenses. The stay must also be recommended by a doctor and cannot exceed 20 days. If a nursing home is a patient’s primary place of residence, Medicare will not cover room and board or custodial care but may pay for medical care, skilled nursing, or prescription drugs received. Coverage will vary and depend based on whether a resident also utilizes a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D – It’s best to check your policy.

When it’s time for long-term care…

Older adults in need of any long-term care should always consult with their caregivers, doctors, and family members first. This is a big decision and it’s worthy of its fair share of research! Check out our assisted living and nursing directories, make some calls, and take the tours.

Find nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities here.

Originally published March 04, 2022


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