If you’ve never had an experience with assisted living facilities or nursing homes, the differences may seem subtle at first glance. When it comes time for you or a loved one to make the transition from independent living into long-term senior care, the differences soon become obvious. It can be extremely difficult to distinguish between all of the different senior care options; however the right choice will depend on individual needs and what each facility has to offer.


Primary Differences

There are a few primary differences between assisted living facilities and nursing homes that can help decide if either is right for you. Although there are more specific details, these are the most notable differences:

  • Assisted living facilities are designed for those that are still mostly independent and can get through the majority of the day alone. Seniors may need help with general activities like bathing, dressing, and food preparation but supervision is not needed 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 is cost. Right off the bat, it is essential to point out that the cost for each will vary state to state, facility to facility, and often 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 cheaper 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 large apartment buildings. Nursing homes, on the other hand, usually consist of one or more primary buildings filled with beds. 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 physically and mentally capable than those in nursing homes. Some assisted living facilities have swimming pools, gyms, classrooms, and movie theaters. Nursing homes offer social activities as well, although they tend to be more limited due to the focus on accommodating more serious health concerns.

Though they are different, one isn’t necessarily better than the other, there are major differences between assisted living and nursing homes. Look at individual needs, including level of care and personal preference, to help decide what is best. With the right facility, you can be sure that your loved one is accommodated accordingly.


Learn more about assisted living and other healthcare options at the main Assisted Living page or the main Caregiving page.

Want to get more helpful tips? Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.


About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.