Difference between Assisted Living and Nursing Home

May 8, 2016 by Editorial Team

There may come a time when certain facilities need to be sought out for parents as they get old and they find it harder to manage on their own. Whether you are looking for a solution for both parents or for a single elderly person, the responsibility is huge as the well-being of a dear one depends on this choice.


Elderly people at an assisted living facility

An assisted living facility or community is a housing facility or a community where the elderly can maintain a certain degree of independence while still being kept under care and staff surveillance. This means that, although many of the people in such a community may go about their regular business, there are still people who check on them periodically and who make sure that all of their needs are met. The typical resident of such a place is usually a senior citizen who needs help with at least one specific type of task, who is independent and does not suffer from severe medical conditions. Although able to live on their own, they still need some companionship and assistance for day-to-day living.

As far as medication and medical conditions are concerned, the personnel is there to do some medication administration and management in the sense that they can remind residents to take their pills, but they cannot interfere with the recommended medication in any way. Prices for being in such a facility may vary according to the specifications of each place and the services offered. They start at $3000 a month and are covered by the patient or the family.

St. Patrick's Day Party at Nursing Home
St. Patrick’s Day Party at Nursing Home

A nursing home is a place where old and young people alike can get medical attention 24 hours a day. It differs from a hospital in the sense that this is not a place of treatment, but one of convalescence, where people come to rest, heal or undergo specific therapies. In the case of the elderly, this is the place for those suffering from certain physical and mental conditions which do not allow them to live independently. People living here need assistance with a multitude of daily tasks and need surveillance. Their health in kept in check and their medication is administered by the personnel. Social and recreational activities are still organized for the residents, but to a limited extent, as some facilities do not have shared areas or because some of the residents are not mobile.

Nursing home costs are higher as they imply medical attention, skilled nurses, medication and medical equipment. They revolve around the sum of $6800 and can sometimes be covered by medical insurance according to certain specifications.


An assisted living community is a place where senior citizens still maintain their independence but where they can also find the support they need for specific tasks. They have people keeping an eye on them and making sure that everything is fine, but without being intrusive. A nursing home is for people whose condition is worse and does not permit independent living. They either have disabilities, advanced diseases or a declining mental health condition such as Alzheimer’s. More than assistance, these people need medical care and specially trained personnel.

Many elderly people may cling to their independence and may form relationships with people in the assisted living community. However, many of these facilities make the residents sign an agreement according to which, as they grow older and their condition deteriorates, they will be moved to a nursing home where they can get the kind of extra attention they need. This is never an easy transition, but it must be done as an assisted living facility does not have the means of taking care of them like a nursing home has.

A nursing home is the best choice for people with progressive conditions; specialists usually recommend an earlier admission instead of waiting for the person to form hard to break attachments with the assisted living community. An early admission to a nursing home means getting the symptoms and manifestations of the disability in check in due time, and better control of the condition’s progression along with a faster accommodation to new surroundings.

When trying to decide what is better for an elderly person, try to think about his/her general condition as well as their mental state. Losing one’s independence or being put in a setting which is not suited to real needs can lead to a decline in the quality of life. Assisted living is better for people who are still doing fine and who still manage on their own, while a nursing home is a solution for older people or for people with advancing diseases.

Comparison Chart

Assisted livingNursing home
Personnel meant to assistTrained medical personnel
Residents need help with at least one daily taskResidents need support, care and medical surveillance
Costs start at $3200Costs start at $6800
Paid by the family or by the residentPaid by the family or resident, then covered by  insurance
Meant for more independent senior citizensMeant for dependent elderly (or in some cases young) people with progressive medical conditions