What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and A Nursing Home?


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As they age, our elderly family members will often require much more residential care. We believe that every child wants their loved ones to have access to the best living accommodations, a comfortable environment, and the most outstanding care.

However, we understand how difficult it can be to decide between assisted living and nursing home care. Each type of care has its own set of benefits and limitations. Families usually feel unprepared to make the best decision because they lack experience with either type of care.

The 12 Oaks managed communities are here to answer any questions regarding assisted living and nursing homes, including their similarities and distinctions, as well as the best candidates for each type of care.


Comparison Between Assisted Living and Nursing Home

Assisted Living Vs. Skilled Nursing: Similarities


Both types of senior communities strongly emphasize maintaining their residents’ well-being and safety. They offer assistance with care services, including:


Medication Management


Inadequate or inappropriate medicine use can cause life-threatening or even fatal consequences. Luckily, medication management is provided in most assisted living facilities and nursing homes. And the two care types mentioned above offer medication oversight to prevent errors and safeguard your parents’ health.


Life Enrichment Activities


Loneliness increases the chances of developing health issues, including depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Therefore, assisted living and nursing homes offer life-enrichment activities to address their residents’ physical, emotional, and spiritual requirements. These activities aim to keep senior citizens involved in the community while also encouraging social interaction.


Supportive Services


Community-based supports and services are designed to help your elderly family members remain safely in their homes or assisted living communities. Those services can include housekeeping, laundry, and transportation.




Generally, traditional homes are not specially made to be safe for senior individuals. In contrast, assisted living communities and nursing homes are. Both types of care are built with safety features for residents in mind. For example, slip-resistant grab bars and handrails are incorporated to prevent seniors from falling and injuries.


Well-balanced Meal Plan


Assisted living communities and nursing homes must provide balanced meals and offer sufficient nutrient and calorie intakes for their residents. These communities strongly emphasize seniors’ age and health status in planning the appropriate diet and nutritious meals for each citizen.


Assisted Living Vs. Skilled Nursing: Differences


Although assisted living communities and skilled nursing, or nursing homes, have some similarities, there are still some important distinctions between the two care types.


Offered Care


Residents at assisted living facilities may require some assistance with housekeeping, dressing, personal care, managing medications, and other daily duties. However, they still maintain their independence, meaning residents have access to programs in an individual or group setting.

Meanwhile, residents in nursing homes have acute needs that demand constant attention and additional supervision. Seniors frequently struggle with more complex medical conditions that necessitate the assistance of a trained nurse or a professional physical therapist. Some people even require respiratory care.


Non-cared based services

In assisted living communities, residents have access to numerous life-enrichment programs in a variety of social settings with three wholesome meals prepared and served to them each day of the week.

However, nursing homes provide more limited recreational activities. According to one review, many residents reported having few chances and incentives for activities. Due to a lack of accommodations, physical function restrictions, and a fixed schedule, senior citizens here were further discouraged from participating in activities.


Living Space


Residents in assisted living communities often have their own apartments or studios with private baths and kitchens. They aim to build a community that feels like home. Besides the extensive common living space, they also offer outside grounds for recreational activities.

Residents at nursing homes often reside in private or semi-private spaces without a living room or kitchen. Moreover, they will experience a more clinical environment since patients here require more demanding medical services.


Number of Residents

Although both senior living facilities house residents under the same roof, each has specific standards for the number of residents to ensure the highest quality of care and assistance possible.

The number of residents living in assisted living facilities ranges between 5 and 300, with the average coming to around 50 seniors.

In contrast, average-sized nursing homes usually have around 100 seniors needing specialized care, but the number can be much higher for larger nursing homes.




As mentioned earlier, senior residents in assisted living facilities are given an entire unit with a thoughtful design of accommodative features like a kitchen and a bathroom. Therefore, they can afford personal space, privacy, and freedom to decide who they want to interact or engage with.

Residents in nursing homes may have limited privacy due to the increased focus on prompt medical support and attention. Depending on each facility’s policies and regulations, senior residents may be subject to specific door locking arrangements. Such measures are implemented to ensure overall safety and provide easy access to clinical assistance when needed.


Level of Independence

Seniors pursuing a new lifestyle in assisted living facilities have more independence. Contrary to common belief, assisted living strives to help seniors afford independent lifestyles by offering on-site assistance to tackle mundane chores. Seniors now have more time to do whatever their heart desires. Many assisted living centers design a myriad of recreational activities and outings to help seniors feel more independent and connected to their outside community.

One of many reasons why many seniors oppose nursing homes is the low level of independence. Such inconvenience is understandable because most residents here have chronic illnesses or special conditions. Therefore, they are not permitted to leave the facility on their own.


Length of Stay

According to reports by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, a senior’s average stay in assisted living is two years and four months (28 months).

When in a nursing home, most seniors spend around 835 days. However, the length of stay can vary from person to person. Age, health, medical condition, family support, marital status, and financial status influence how long a senior may spend in the facility. Seniors with complicated medical conditions may stay in nursing homes for several years.


Insurance Coverage

The assisted living costs are typically not covered by state and private insurance. Although some facilities and insurance companies offer discount promotions to help reduce the cost, it is usually rare, or you may have to deepen your research.

You can find a good number of insurance plans (both state and private) that offer full-fledged or partial coverage for nursing homes.



The Cost of Care Survey from Genworth estimates that the average cost of assisted living in the United States in 2021 will be $4,300 per month. Meanwhile, the monthly cost of nursing homes in the same year falls around $7,908 for a semi-private room and $9,034 for a private room.

Both options seek to provide an environment for your seniors that reduces loneliness, promotes more social connections, and fosters a meaningful sense of community while teaching them new skills. However, whatever setting is best for your senior is determined by their health circumstances.

If your family is debating between assisted living and nursing homes, consider asking yourself and your senior the following questions.

  • Does your senior loved one wish to be as independent as possible? If so, assisted living may be a good fit.
  • Do your parent’s needs revolve more around complex medical management than daily activities? If yes, nursing homes are a better solution.


Life at 12 Oaks Senior Living Communities

A senior assisted living community can be a perfect alternative when your loved one requires more assistance than family members can safely provide at home.

For years, our communities have been keeping our residents safe, active, and connected to their families. 12 Oaks Senior Living strives to create an environment where your loved one feels at ease, protected, and safe.

Each community is committed to providing a warm, welcoming environment that feels like an extension of your family.


If you have questions about The Difference Between Assisted Living And Nursing Homes, connect with us to learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us. 


Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit

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