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

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If you are contemplating long-term care for you or a loved one, you consider options like a nursing home or assisted living home.  These are two options for senior care that are often misunderstood and are confused as being one in the same.  But there are actually some distinctions that you should know before making your choice. 

Read on to learn more about the differences between a nursing home and an assisted living home.  As always, if you have questions or concerns about a nursing home, the rights of the elderly or elder abuse, you can contact Nursing Home Abuse Center.   

What is a Nursing Home?

In the United States there are more than 15,000 nursing homes housing more than 1.4 million residents.   A nursing home is a long-term care facility that offers support for daily activities, personal care and healthcare.  Nursing homes are ideal for individuals who:

  • Are bed-bound
  • Have wounds that are not healing
  • Have fractures or broken bones that are not healing
  • Suffer from Alzheimer’s disease
  • Suffer from multiple medical problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or congestive heart failure

At a nursing home, these individuals have access to 24-hour care and supervision.  Staff assists in meal preparation, laundry, hygiene, transportation, medication administration and nursing care.  Nursing homes may offer a private or shared bedroom, with access to common areas.   

What is an Assisted Living Home?

In the U.S., there are 36,000 assisted living facilities housing more than one million residents.  An assisted living home is a facility that offers varying levels of care and supervision.  Most people who live in assisted living are independent and highly-functioning.  Assisted living homes are ideal for individuals who:

  • Need help with housekeeping
  • Need help with meal preparation or delivery
  • Enjoy the idea of an active senior community
  • Need moderate supervision from staff
  • Like the option of services that can be purchased or dropped

In assisted living facilities, residents generally have an apartment or independent home.  There is more privacy, and residents have more control over the level of care that they receive.  Residents have access to on-site activities and are usually provided with transportation. 

Differences Between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Homes


As you can see, there are a variety of differences between nursing homes and assisted living homes.  These differences can certainly be significant when it comes to determining the type of facility that you or your loved one needs. 

Tips for Choosing the Right Facility

If you are unsure of what type of facility you should choose, or are having trouble narrowing down your list, consider these tips and questions to ask yourself:

  • Talk to your doctor about the level of care that you anticipate.
  • Consider services that you would like to have (transportation, meal prep, social activities, etc.).
  • Do you need help with managing medications?
  • Do you need to have a nurse or doctor on-site?
  • Is dementia or Alzheimer’s care an issue?
  • Consider the future – do you want access to additional services or the ability to transition from assisted living into a nursing home?

Once you have considered these factors and answered these questions, you can start to better narrow down your list of possible homes.  Before you make a decision, consider doing the following:

  • Schedule a tour of the facility and then go by unannounced. Consider if there is a difference in what you see between the two visits. 
  • Check the facility’s ratings. You can search the facility using Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare 
  • If you have questions about a particular facility, do not hesitate to ask them. If they fail to respond or give you an unsatisfactory answer, then you might can remove them from your short list. 
  • During the scouting or application process, if you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. If you feel like something is not right for you, it probably isn’t. 

Moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility is an investment.  It also becomes the resident’s community and impacts their lifestyle and wellbeing.  Consider your options carefully before choosing a facility for yourself or someone you love. 

Have Questions About a Nursing Home or Assisted Living?

If you have questions or concerns about nursing homes, nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center.   Our legal professionals help families understand the rights of nursing home residents and assisted living residents.  You do not have to settle for care that is substandard or does not meet your needs. 


meagan cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to FNHA and our websites, including Birth Injury Guide and MedMalFirm.com.