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Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: Care, Cost, & More

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Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes: Care, Cost & More

Searching for senior care for an aging parent can feel overwhelming. It is often emotionally and physically exhausting. A big part of the struggle for families lies in having difficulty understanding their options. One common source of confusion is the difference in an assisted living facility vs. a nursing home.


While these communities have much in common, there are distinct differences between assisted living vs. nursing homes. Let’s talk about both.


6 Similarities Between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living

Here are six ways nursing homes and assisted living communities are alike:


  1. Activities of Daily Living: Residents in both of these types of senior living centers receive assistance with what are known as the activities of daily living (ADL).  This means caregivers are on hand to help with bathing, dressing, grooming and other necessary daily tasks.

  2. Medication Management: One of the most common services for seniors who live in a nursing home or an assisted living community is support with medication. Because more than 50% of adults between the ages of 62 and 85 take five or more medications or supplements each day, the chances for making a mistake are higher. This is especially true for adults who live with some form of memory loss. Mismanaging medication is a leading reason older adults end up in a hospital emergency room.

  3. Supportive Physical Environment: Nursing homes and assisted living communities are both designed to meet the unique needs of seniors. Individual resident rooms have emergency call systems, accessible bathrooms and fire suppression systems. The physical plan of the community itself is built with sturdy handrails in hallways and easy-to-navigate common spaces.

  4. Well-balanced Meals: A surprising number of older adults suffer from poor nutrition. Sometimes it is due to a chronic illness, such as Parkinson’s disease, that makes meal preparation difficult. Other times it is because they lack transportation to get back and forth to the grocery store. Assisted living communities and nursing homes both offer residents nutritious, well-balanced meals.

  5. Transportation Options: Another benefit both types of communities provide is access to transportation. This is especially important for seniors who have given up their car keys. From group outings to scheduled physician appointments, residents typically have transportation services available as needed.

  6. Life Enrichment Programs: Newer research tells us seniors who are lonely are at higher risk for a variety of health conditions ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure, obesity and depression. An advantage of moving to an assisted living community or a nursing home is the opportunity to participate in the wide variety of life enrichment activities and programs that take place every day.

Despite how many things they have in common, there are distinct differences which are important for families to understand. Most notably is the complexity of medical services that are provided.


Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: What's The Difference?

When you are searching for care for a senior loved one, know that a nursing home is for adults who have more complex medical needs. They typically require skilled care from licensed professionals who are available around the clock.

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and respiratory care are usually offered in a nursing home. As is support with chronic medical conditions that require skilled nursing care.


This is in contrast with the needs of adults in an assisted living community. Residents in an assisted living need support to safely maintain their independence, but their care usually doesn’t need to be delivered by a registered nurse or therapist.


Because residents in a nursing home have more health care related needs, these communities often look more like a clinic or a hospital. Unlike the private apartment or suite residents in an assisted living community typically enjoy, nursing home residents often share a room and a bathroom.



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