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What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

It’s natural that as our bodies age, we may need help with more and more day-to-day tasks. Perhaps you’ve noticed this occurring for a loved one—from struggling to put on support hose first thing in the morning to fumbling with medications just before bed. Or maybe you’re the one needing assistance. Either way, you’re wondering whether it’s time for a change: Would life be better in a senior living community? Which kinds offer help with everyday activities?

The good news is that you have many options when it comes to senior living. With locations around across the US, there’s a good chance there’s a Five Star independent living, assisted living or memory care community near you or your family. Because there are many choices, however, it can be confusing to know how they differ, and which would be best for you or your loved one.

The similarities between assisted living and nursing homes

Both types of senior communities focus on keeping their residents safe, healthy and happy. Both provide support with what are referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These include bathing, dressing and personal care. Other similarities include:

  • Medication Management: Medication errors are a leading reason older adults end up in the emergency room. Managing them can be difficult, especially for seniors who take multiple prescriptions daily. Both types of communities can help residents safely manage their medications.
  • Life Enrichment: We know isolation and loneliness put older adults at greater risk for health problems, such as depression, diabetes and high blood pressure. Assisted living communities and nursing care centers offer a variety of life enrichment activities designed to meet residents’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  • Supportive Services: What causes many older adults to make a move to a senior living community of some kind is the need for support with tasks like housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Both types of communities offer these services.
  • Safe Environment: While their physical layouts are very different, assisted living and nursing care centers are both designed with the security of an older adult in mind. From handrails and grab bars to emergency call systems, both include features to help residents stay safe.
  • Well-balanced Meals: Good nutrition is also a focus for both types of communities. Residents benefit from well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks each day. This is a big plus for adults who may be struggling to shop for food and plan and prepare meals at home.

The differences between nursing homes and assisted living

The biggest differences between these two senior living options are the assistive or medical services provided, living arrangements and cost. Compare the two options here:


Assisted Living

Nursing Homes

How much care do you receive? In assisted living, residents may need some help with transportation, medication management, housekeeping and other specific activities of daily living such as dressing and personal care, but still live independently. Residents in a nursing home require around the clock care and monitoring. They typically live with more complex health care conditions that require the assistance of a skilled nurse or a physical or speech therapist. Some require respiratory care services.
What other services are offered? Residents receive three nutritious meals each day and access to life enrichment programs in an individual or group setting. Residents receive limited recreational activities along with services like meals, laundry and housekeeping.
What is the living situation like? Assisted living communities are designed to feel home-like and residents typically live in their own apartments or suites with private baths and kitchenettes. Nursing homes have more of a clinical environment and residents typically live in a private or semiprivate room that does not include a living room or kitchen. 
How much does it cost? The median cost of assisted living in the United States in 2021 was $4,300 per month, according to Genworth’s most recent Cost of Care Survey. The median monthly cost of nursing homes in the U.S. in 2021 is about $7,908/month for a semi-private room and $9,034/month for a private room, according to Genworth.

Assisted living: Benefits beyond assistance

Most aging adults seeking help with daily living are not at the level of need addressed by nursing care centers. For many, a Five Star assisted living community may be just what is needed. Our communities offer help with housekeeping, maintenance, laundry and transportation but so much more—including restaurant-quality dining and convenient health services as well as games, clubs and other fun social activities. You get just the amount of help you need to live exactly the life you want to live.

How may we assist?

If you’re looking for an assisted living community, find out if there’s a Five Star Senior Living community near you. We’ll be happy to tell you about all the programs and services we offer to make life easier and more enjoyable!

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