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Nursing Homes VS. Assisted Living

An Overview of Their Significant Differences

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Difference between nursing home and assisted living.

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The main difference is that the level of medical care isn't the same between nursing homes and assisted living. Assisted living facilities may have a nursing staff and a health clinic. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes serve different types of residents—mostly—and are generally paid for by different programs, if you can get assistance; not everyone qualifies. Below is an overview of the significant differences between nursing homes and assisted living.

Nursing Homes

A nursing home is a place for people who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for at home. Most nursing homes have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day. Some nursing homes are set up like a hospital. The staff provides medical care, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, provide a wide range of health and personal care services. Their services focus on medical care more than most assisted living facilities. These services typically include nursing care, 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, and assistance with everyday activities. Rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, are also available.

Some people stay at a nursing home for a short time after being in the hospital. After they recover, they go home. However, most nursing home residents live there permanently because they have ongoing physical or mental conditions that require constant care and supervision.


Nursing home qualifications are different in each state, but seniors may qualify if they require some or all of the following:

  • Skilled nursing or rehabilitative services.
  • Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or grooming.
  • Continuous supervision.
  • Assistance with managing daily health care needs.
  • Medication management.

The main purpose of a nursing home is a place for people who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for at home. Most nursing homes have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day. Some nursing homes are set up like a hospital. The staff provides medical care, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living is part of a continuum of long term care services that provides a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed to respond to individuals who need assistance with normal daily activities in a way that promotes maximum independence. Moving Parent's to Assisted Living

Assisted living services can be provided in freestanding communities, near or integrated with skilled nursing homes or hospitals, as components of continuing care retirement communities, or at independent housing complexes.

Assisted living communities offer a multi-faceted residential setting that provides personal care services, 24-hour supervision and assistance, activities and health-related services designed to:

  • Minimize the need to relocate;
  • Accommodate individual residents’ changing needs and preferences;
  • Maximize residents’ dignity, autonomy, privacy, independence, choice and safety; and
  • Encourage family and community involvement.

Most assisted living residents are seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia. Some communities serve individuals of any age with developmental disabilities while other communities serve individuals with particular medical conditions or needs.

Texas Health and Human Services licenses assisted living facilities based on residents' physical and mental ability to evacuate the facility in an emergency and whether nighttime attendance is necessary.

Services and Activities

The services and activities provided or arranged for in assisted living communities promote the quality of life and independence of the individual, and generally include:

  • 24-hour supervision
  • 3 meals a day in a group dining room
  • Personal care services (help with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.)
  • Medication management, or assistance with self-administration of medicine
  • Social services
  • Supervision and assistance for persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities
  • Recreational and spiritual activities
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Laundry and linen service
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Arrangements for transportation

Each resident receives individualized services to help him/her function within the assisted living community.

Personal Care

Assisted living communities provide supervision or assistance with activities of daily living (ADL’s); coordination of services by outside health care providers; and monitoring of resident activities to help to ensure his or her health, safety, and well-being. Assistance may include the administration or supervision of medication, or certain personal care services by a trained staff person. The community may assist in arranging the appropriate medical, health, and dental care services for each resident. The resident generally chooses his or her medical doctor and dental services.

It is important to remember that assisted living communities are a bridge between living at home and living in a nursing home. Assisted living communities do not typically provide the level of continuous skilled nursing care found in nursing homes and hospitals.


Accommodations and options may vary greatly from one assisted living community to the next (e.g. private rooms, private baths, kitchenettes, etc.). Personal needs and preferences are important criteria for selecting a community and the amenities it offers.

Most communities are constructed and equipped to comply with a host of local, state and federal regulations. Assisted living communities are designed to be operated, staffed and maintained in a manner appropriate to the needs and desires of the residents served. Caring for residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities requires a community design and philosophy that assure resident safety and autonomy.

Always talk with your doctor about the type of assistance you or your loved one needs so you can decide which is right for you.

Source: American Health Care Association


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