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The Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Although they have some similarities, assisted living and nursing homes differ in many ways.

Assisted living and nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, might have some similarities but differ in many ways. But what is the difference? They both provide care, right?

They do both provide care. However, these senior living options differ through the type of senior care, their payment options, and the amenities they offer.

Knowing the difference is important when searching for the right level of care for your loved one. In this article, we will cover three major differences between nursing homes and assisted living communities:

  1. Levels of care
  2. Costs and payment options
  3. Amenities

Level of care

Assisted living offers a personal care approach for seniors. This means that seniors who need help with activities of daily living are assisted by caregivers. These daily living ADLs include bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and medication management. In nursing homes, however, seniors need more specialized care. They do provide assistance with daily activities but also a higher level of medical care.

This type of care requires skilled nursing. For instance, nursing home residents might need 24-hour supervision for a health complication or after surgery. Typically, seniors don’t permanently stay in the nursing home care facility either. Often, they stay if they need short-term or long-term rehabilitation.

When it comes to memory care, you’ll be better off looking for specific dementia assisted living care communities. Some assisted living communities offer memory care portions for seniors to transition levels of care smoothly. Also, there are stand-alone memory care communities that provide a more independent environment and have specialized dementia care staff.

Costs and payment options

Cost considerations and payment options are different between assisted living and nursing homes.

The cost for assisted living care depends on the state, the amount of care, or Alzheimer’s or memory care needs. Private pay or monthly income and savings are the primary forms of payment for assisted living expenses. There are, however, other ways to help pay for costs:

  • Long-term care insurance
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Life insurance policies
  • Family support
  • A home sale
  • Reverse mortgage

These options will help pay for some assisted living costs, but not all. Creating a budget will help plan for costs and if a move to assisted living is right for you or a loved one.

Some states are known to accept Medicare or Medicaid as a form of payment to help with care and living costs. Check with the assisted living community and the state to see if Medicare or Medicaid is an acceptable form of payment.

Nursing homes, on the other hand, are much more expensive than assisted living communities. In providing specialized care, skilled nursing facilities charge more for care needs. Nursing homes do, however, accept Medicare and Medicaid as a form of payment.

Medicare covers rehabilitation therapy, medication, any treatments associated with the stay, and supplies needed for treatment. Also, depending on the length of stay, it will cover the room and board fees and assistance with daily living. Medicare is, however, only for short-term stays and will not pay for an ongoing stay.

Medicaid can also help alleviate the costs of a nursing home stay. Seniors must qualify to receive Medicare. Requirements include:

  • Total assets are lower than $2,000
  • If the recipient qualifies for a care level that a nursing home is needed to meet those needs

Aside from these government assistance plans, long-term care plans, Veteran’s Aid and Attendance, or private pay can help alleviate nursing home expenses.


Assisted living communities promote independence through their care and community design. Since the majority of care includes assistance with daily living, it gives residents the freedom to live independently. Also, residents enjoy living in private apartments ranging from studios to one or two bedrooms.

Assisted living communities also offer daily programming for residents to engage and interact with other residents. From onsite painting classes to offsite mall trips or park visits; communities provide an abundance of opportunities to socialize. Plus, some communities have sizeable outdoor living spaces that residents can enjoy at their leisure.

Nursing homes, like assisted living, also provide residency but through shared rooms and some private rooms. They don’t offer as robust options for common areas such as lounges. Skilled nursing facilities also have a programmed calendar, but it is not as engaging as an assisted living community. And, nursing homes are known to have minimal to no outdoor living spaces.

In knowing the difference between an assisted living versus a nursing home/skilled nursing facility; you’ll be more informed to make the right decision for your loved one. Contact Us today to learn more.