While assisted living facilities and nursing homes both provide healthcare services, they each provide different services for people with varying needs. When considering a move to assisted living or a nursing home, it’s important to understand the differences, who each of these facilities serve, and when it’s the right time to transition into one or the other.

What is an assisted living facility?

Assisted living facilities provide varying levels of care to meet the needs of people who are no longer comfortable with or capable of living independently. Assisted living also provides the opportunity to maintain a social, active lifestyle with regular programs of services and activities. From support for activities of daily living, like bathing and getting dressed, to help with meals and housekeeping, the services provided by assisted living make it an attractive option for seniors. That’s why more than 800,000 people reside in assisted living today. 

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes are sometimes referred to as skilled nursing facilities or convalescent homes. These facilities provide the highest level of care for people who require constant care and medical monitoring without hospitalization. Because of the high level of care, nursing home residents often suffer from severe physical or cognitive health conditions that require round-the-clock care. These facilities sometimes require a prescription, a physical exam, or state approval for entry to ensure the level of care meets the residents’ needs. Oftentimes, assisted living residents whose needs have increased will transition to a nursing home to receive the care they need as they continue to age. 

Assisted living facilities vs Nursing homes: Key differences

The primary difference between assisted living and a nursing home is the level of care. Residents in nursing homes receive constant care, whereas those in assisted living receive services aimed at helping with daily activities and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Of course, there are other differences to consider as well.

Level of care

The level of care is the biggest difference between assisted living and nursing home facilities. While each facility will have some variance in the services provided, below are some of the typical services provided by both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Assisted Living Generally Provides:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living, including bathing and medication management

  • Help with housekeeping and home maintenance

  • Accessible living areas fit for residents in wheelchairs or with walkers

  • Dining options, from meal delivery to restaurant-style dining

  • Outings and transportation to restaurants, theaters, and more

  • Programs of activities to help residents live active, healthy lifestyles

Nursing Homes Generally Provide:

  • Ongoing treatment and preventative care for medical conditions

  • Prescription monitoring and assistance

  • Rehabilitation services

  • Meal services that meet the individual needs of residents, who may require special diets

  • Added safety and security measures, including grab bars and alarmed doorways


Many of the residents of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities are seniors. But each individual’s health, financial, and social needs are different, So, let’s take a look at the typical residents of both assisted living and nursing home facilities.

Who can benefit from assisted living?

Assisted living is a great choice for people who want to maintain their independence as long as possible, but may need a safe and secure place that provides some assistance with daily activities and programs to maintain an active lifestyle. While everyone’s needs are different, assisted living could be a good fit for you or a loved on who:

  • Wants to reduce the amount of time spent on housekeeping and home maintenance

  • Needs help monitoring prescriptions and/or blood sugar

  • Could use assistance with daily activities, including bathing

  • Wants to live an active lifestyle but needs help with transportation or finding community

  • Is currently in good health, but wants to transition before they need daily assistance

Who can benefit from living in a nursing home?

Nursing homes provide additional care and are a great choice for people who need full-time monitoring. Generally speaking, nursing homes are a good fit for people with severe medical conditions who:

  • Require constant care and monitoring

  • Need meal support, including food preparation and feeding

  • Have mobility issues that require a safe and secure environment

  • Have chronic conditions that could progress faster without proper treatment and preventative care


Nursing homes provide more care than assisted living facilities—which should make it no surprise that nursing homes also cost more. Both types of care facilities usually charge monthly fees that vary depending on geographic location, services provided, and resident privacy. For assisted living, the median national average is $4,500/mo. If you’re considering nursing home care, the median national cost is $7,800/mo for a semi-private room and $8,910/mo for a private room. Wondering what the median cost is for your area? Genworth has an interactive map to help you determine a good estimate. 

Assisted living meets the needs of many aging Americans. As we continue to age and our support needs increase, it’s common to transition from assisted living to a skilled nursing facility that can better care for our unique and growing needs. When determining the proper level of care for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to consider comfortability, safety, and cost in order to find the right long-term care option.

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