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Compare to Assisted Living
Comparison of Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

Assisted Living vs Nursing Home
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Learn the difference between assisted living skilled nursing facilities.

The main difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes is the level of care a resident receives and the freedom given to the resident.

Today, a skilled nursing home facilities transition to providing hospital-like services, while assisted living facilities transition to offering nursing home-like services.

In the past, it was nursing homes that offered skilled nursing care like wound care, hospice, and rehabilitation. But today, so are the assisted living facilities. They now compete with hospitals and nursing homes.

Long Term Care

Long term care includes a range of supportive medical, personal, and social services needed by people who are unable to meet their basic living needs for an extended period. This support, which requires the aid of a healthy caregiver, are given at both; assisted living facility or nursing home.

If you have a concern for yourself or your loved one's safety and well-being, it's time to consider the assisted living or nursing home options.

It brings peace of mind knowing a loved one receives proper care in a setting designed for his needs. Safety is more important than independence. If safety's neglected, disaster and accidents are close behind.

Learn more about the differences between nursing homes and assisted living.

Assisted Living (ALF)

In general, assisted living is an independent option offering protection that personal care and support services if and when an adult needs it. The support services include; fundamental activities of daily living like bathing, grooming, dressing, and going to the toilet. Individual states regulate assisted living facilities, not federal, so a few states allow services to offer medication assistance and reminders.

The living quarters of assisted living facilities range from standalone apartments or cottages, studios, one bedroom, or a large shared one or two bedrooms. It's more home-like and offers a kitchenette.

Assisted living residents might still drive, cook their meals, come and go freely, have a security of medical supervision, and social interaction with other residents. Nursing home residents do not.

Most assisted living homes do not offer complex medical services for chronic or terminal illnesses - not yet in most facilities, but as I pointed out, some are gravitating there.


Meals, housekeeping services, transportation, health promotion and exercise programs, personal laundry services, social and recreational activities. Provides access to health and medical services such as emergency call systems, bathing, dressing, medication management and needed assistance with eating, walking and going to the toilet.


Not covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Long-term care insurance pays for assisted living care, but most people pay out-of-pocket. Costs will vary depending on the level of care and services provided.

Nursing Homes (Skilled Nursing Facility)

A nursing home is a place of residence for people who require constant nursing care and have substantial deficiencies with activities of daily living.

In nursing homes, residents have on-going medical supervision. They're in need of assistance with daily living activities and unable to live alone or independently, at all.

The residents in a nursing home are more like patients in hospitals.

They're unable to leave on their own, mainly because they're physically or mentally powerless. While some residents in assisted living might need assistance with medicine management, bathing, and other tasks, they are capable of handling most of the daily living activities on their own.

Nursing homes for years have provided living options for seniors with varying levels of medical needs while assisted living residences have become popular in recent decades.


Medical care, assistance with personal care, meals, housekeeping and social activities. Provides 24-hour skilled nursing care and medical supervision for the more acute (critically ill) patients that are one step below hospital acute care.


Payments covered by out-of-pocket private pay, private health insurance or long-term care insurance policies. Medicare or Medicaid may also pay for nursing home care under certain circumstances. Costs depends on the level of care and services one receives.

Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living: You Choose

Nursing homes vs Assisted living care
Nursing homes vs Assisted living care

Which is best for you or your loved one?

Assisted living and nursing homes have their best features, great benefits and unpleasant drawbacks. The key is finding the best level of care to meet an aging relative's required needs for as long as possible.

A nursing home is a clinical care provider providing 24/7 licensed skilled nursing care.

Nursing home offers medical services, therapy services, and nursing care for residents for rehabilitation. A physician supervises each resident's care, while a RN is on-site at all times. Other occupational or physical therapists are available to give physical therapy, occupational and speech rehabilitation, intravenous therapy, post-surgical stabilization, pulmonary management, and wound care.

Since skilled nursing facilities are federally regulated and licensed, they assist with and administer medications.

On the other hand, assisted living facilities provides housekeeping services and medication management, provides meals, and helps with bathing, cooking, going to the toilet, grooming, and dressing. They do not get involved in rehabilitation services like physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

Nursing Homes also provide permanent homes for the elderly residents who are too weak, frail, or sick and can no longer live alone at home. They have a variety of physical, emotional or mental problems and require daily one-on-one daily care assistance.

Medicare covers skilled nursing care but not custodial care. Custodial care is care that helps you with usual daily activities like getting in and out of bed, eating, bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom.

It can include care,, like using oxygen, and taking care of colostomy or bladder catheters.

For more help determining the best fit for your loved one, see "What Type of Care is Right for Me?" or speak with an agent directly at (866) 333-6002.

Get Help

Every state offers an Ombudsman Program. They're equipped to give information and answers on finding an assisted living or nursing home facility and what to do to receive quality care. The Ombudsman pay close attention to and responds to complaints. They're the government official that advocates for residents and works hard to improve each state's long-term care system.

If you choose a facility you are not happy with, ombudsmen resolves problems, identifies, investigates and resolves complaints on behalf of residents.


Please see the Infographic above for additional statistics and differences to help you compare assisted living and nursing homes.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.