Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Care: What You Need to Know

Most adults need or want some additional help as they move through their retirement. Unfortunately, there’s some confusion around the best type of support for different lifestyles, especially when it comes to assisted living and nursing home care. There are many differences between these two options, the biggest of which is the level of care provided.

In general, assisted living offers a higher level of independence for adults while providing help with daily activities. Nursing home care provides a greater degree of assistance in a more clinical, or medical, type of setting.

Both assisted living communities and nursing homes are long-term care options. Let’s look more closely at assisted living vs. nursing home care.

Similarities and Differences between Assisted Living Communities and Nursing Homes

Level of Care

In an assisted living community, individuals are encouraged to live as independently as possible, but someone is always available to provide assistance when needed. The primary focus of care in an assisted living community is to help residents with the activities of daily living (ADLs) including activities such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, toileting and medication management. Some assisted living communities have a nurse on-site to support residents.

Nursing home care, generally provided in a skilled nursing community, also provides assistance with ADLs, often to a greater degree, while also offering more specialized care. Nursing homes have professional nursing staff on-site to provide 24/7 care. Individuals requiring nursing home care need assistance with ADLs and typically have other health issues. Those health issues may include rehabilitation needs or chronic physical or mental health issues.

Nursing homes are also used more often for short-term stays vs. assisted living, which is almost always a long-term, home-like environment. Thirty percent of all nursing home stays are for a duration of six months or less, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. These stays are typically rehabilitative following a hospitalization, surgery, accident or major health event such as a heart attack or stroke.

Environment and Accommodations

Residents in an assisted living community generally live in their own private apartment, although some communities also offer shared accommodations, sometimes as a reduced cost option. Assisted living accommodations allow individuals to enjoy their freedom and privacy, receiving assistance when and if it is needed. Assisted living communities are meant to be comfortable, home-like residences where individuals and couples feel relaxed and are active during their retirement.

With nursing home care, individuals will often find themselves sharing a bedroom with someone else. Due to the level of care provided in a nursing home, the environment tends to be more sterile and hospital-like in nature. An assisted living community, on the other hand, provides support in a more natural environment.


Assisted living communities and nursing homes both offer activities for their residents. Since residents in an assisted living community are more independent, an assisted living community is likely to offer a more active schedule. That may include pursuits such as yoga classes, dances and offsite excursions as well as less strenuous activities such as movie nights and arts and crafts.

Nursing homes typically focus on the less strenuous activities. You’ll often find calendars featuring craft nights, crossword puzzles and movie nights.

Cost of Care

According to the 2019 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the national monthly median cost associated with assisted living is $4,051. This cost can vary widely, however, depending on location. According to Paying for Senior Care, the yearly costs range from the lowest at $34,128 in Missouri to the highest at $111,195 in the District of Columbia. You can find affordable assisted living communities in different areas. Heritage of Brookstone’s Georgia assisted living community starts at just $3,650 per month, for example.

Nursing home care is significantly more expensive. The national monthly median cost for a semi-private (shared) room is $7,513, and $8,517 for a private room.

Medicare or Medicaid may cover the cost of care in an assisted living community or nursing home for a specified period of time to those meeting certain criteria. In some cases, for any of the costs of care to be covered, it must be authorized by a physician.

Which is Best: Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Care

Choosing between assisted living and nursing home care is highly dependent on your lifestyle and needs. For those who are still largely independent and don’t require medically necessary care, assisted living is easily the best alternative. You have more independence, more privacy and more choices. Plus, you save a lot of money by choosing to live in an assisted living community.

Should nursing home care becomes necessary, you can easily move from assisted living to a nursing home. And like so many others, you can move from the nursing home back to the freedom afforded by assisted living once medical care is no longer required.

Assisted Living at Heritage of Brookstone

Heritage at Brookstone is an assisted living and memory care community located in Kennesaw, GA. Our highly trained team will empower you to meet your personal goals. If you’re looking for assisted living in Georgia, give us a call. Don’t forget to download our Senior Living Resource Guide or our Memory Care Resource Guide. They’re both filled will valuable information you can use again and again.