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Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: What’s the Difference?

Housing | May 15, 2023

An older man and his son comparing assisted living vs nursing homes.

As you or your loved one gets older, it’s important to find the right place to call home. The problem is that it’s not always easy to figure out the best setting to meet your clinical and financial needs without some help.

Over the years, the term “nursing home” has become a catch-all for layman to describe a community setting that provides care support. Assisted living, skilled nursing, and long-term care are examples of care settings that have been placed under the umbrella term “nursing home” (but not all should be). While all of these settings provide a level of care support to an individual, they all provide different care services and plans to the individual in need.

Simply put, it’s essential to figure out which community and setting is best suited to your care and financial needs. That’s why we’re here to break down what separates assisted living from nursing homes, and which one makes more sense for you or your loved one.

The Differences Between a Nursing Home and Assisted Living

Comparing different senior living options typically boils down to figuring out which community can help someone live their ideal quality of life. Of course, one senior’s needs and lifestyle can be much different than another. Some older adults may be better suited for assisted living, while others may require more personal care in a long term care community.

Trying to figure out which is right for you? Let’s evaluate the following areas to see how each option differs from the other.

  • Healthcare and other medical needs
  • The overall amenities the communities offer
  • Cost

Services and level of care

One of the biggest differences between assisted living and long term care/nursing homes is the level of care in which they support their residents. Assisted living and long-term care communities are available to support seniors through their golden years, but the amount of assistance required varies greatly between the two.

Assisted living gives seniors who can’t live by themselves a place where they can receive care without sacrificing social amenities. Assisted living communities are just that – communities. Residents can stay social and active thanks to ongoing activities, outings, and other forms of entertainment.

While an assisted living setting gives seniors a long-term housing option to remain social and active, they can receive personal care on a daily basis. Seniors who opt for assisted living generally need help with various activities of daily living (ADLs). This care can include, but is not limited to:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Incontinence support
  • Oversight and support with showers
  • Medication management

Nursing homes best support seniors that need more extensive medical care. Skilled nursing facilities are typically meant to provide two different types of care:

  • Short-term care – A temporary stay (typically 20 to 60 days) to provide medical support and rehab services for seniors referred from the hospital.
  • Long-term care – A more traditional nursing home where seniors may live for years with full-time monitoring and medical assistance.

As expected with long-term care, people who need short-term or long-term nursing home care typically need assistance that goes beyond daily ADLs. Nursing homes offer extensive medical care and increased safety features for seniors recovering from injuries, dealing with chronic medical conditions, or other more intensive needs.


Medical services aren’t the only difference that separates assisted living and long term care/nursing homes. Different senior living options can feature specific amenities that make it a better fit for someone’s ideal lifestyle.

If you’re looking for a senior living community that’s closer to independent living with regular ADL support, assisted living is likely a good fit. Assisted living combines apartment-style living with more robust medical support to provide an appropriate level of care. In turn, seniors can live an active lifestyle while receiving the help they need.

Since skilled nursing/ long term care is more focused on providing extensive care to help seniors to rehabilitate after a hospital stay or receive the extra medical support that isn’t available at assisted or independent living. As such, nursing homes are best suited for seniors who require constant care, have notable mobility issues, or need other significant medical support.


While costs shouldn’t dictate which senior living option is the right fit for a senior’s needs, it is important to note that there is typically a price difference between assisted living and nursing homes.

Senior living costs can vary greatly depending on the level of care and where you live. Regardless of where you or your loved one are located, it’s generally the case that nursing homes and skilled nursing will cost more than assisted living fees. The reason for this cost difference is due to the full-time medical services required in nursing homes.

Find the Right Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facility for You or Your Loved One

No matter your age, you deserve to live in senior housing that helps you live a healthier and more satisfying life. Choosing the right fit between assisted living, skilled nursing, or some other senior living option can help you find the right home for your personal lifestyle and medical needs.

Looking for quality assisted living or skilled nursing near you? National Church Residences has a proven track record of providing senior living and services to seniors in multiple states. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.