What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home? | Five Star Senior Living
What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home?

What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home?


If you spent time visiting an aging loved one during the holidays, you may have come away from the visit worried about how safe they are living alone. Families often realize during the holiday season that it is time for a senior loved one to make a move. But the variety of senior care options available can be confusing.

We thought it would be helpful to spend some time talking about the similarities and differences between an assisted living community and a nursing care center.

Understanding Senior Living Options

Both types of senior housing communities focus on keeping the older adults who call them “home” safe, healthy and happy. And both provide support with what are referred to as the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). They include bathing, dressing, and personal care.

Other similarities between the two types of communities include:

  • Medication Management: Mistakes with medication are a leading reason seniors end up in the emergency room. But managing them can be difficult, especially for seniors who take many different medications each day. 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 to the need for support with tasks like housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Both types of communities offer these services.
  • Secure Environment: While the physical plant of these two types of communities is very different, what they have in common is that both are designed with the security of an older adult in mind. From handrails and grab bars to emergency call systems, both assisted living and nursing homes help residents stay safe.
  • Well-Balanced Meals: Good nutrition is also a focus of both types of communities. Residents benefit from three well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks each day. A big plus for adults who may be struggling to plan and prepare meals at home.

Differences Between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Communities

The biggest differences between these two types of senior housing centers revolve around medical services provided and the physical plant of each community.

Care and Services Provided in Senior Housing

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.

By contrast, residents in an assisted living community generally require custodial care. It might be a person who lives with memory loss and isn’t safe living alone. Or an adult with mobility problems who needs a little help transferring from their bed to their favorite chair.

How Senior Housing Communities Differ in Physical Plant

One obvious difference when you tour both a nursing home and an assisted living community is their appearance. While a nursing care center generally looks a little institutional because of the type of care provided, an assisted living usually resembles an upscale apartment community.

Nursing home residents are more likely to share a room with another senior. Residents in an assisted living community usually have their own apartment or suite.

Help Finding a Senior Living Community

If you need help determining what type of care your senior loved one needs, we invite you to call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you. Our dedicated team will be happy to answer your questions and get your search off to a productive start!

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