Care Support

Assisted Living or Nursing Home - Which is Best for You?

Written by Kerry Lange
August 25, 2022
Assisted Living or Nursing Home  - Which is Best for You?
Table of Contents

As we discuss differences between assisted living and a nursing home facility we want note that they are both intended to be a 24/7 full time home or residence. Both of living communities include services and skilled care in a facility. When caregiving includes a facility as home there are options for senior care and assisted living that are ‘more affordable’ than others,

When care happens at a facility

We asked caregiving experts to help us navigate the often intimidating process behind these decisions. When we are the primary caregiver for someone who is considering moving into a facility; we are a big part of the conversation. Keep reading for everything you need to consider and all the tough-but-necessary questions to consider in this caregiving topic.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a great choice for seniors or people who can no longer live alone, but are interested in a chance to be active and social. These communities have a reported 93% satisfaction rate and the move here may rekindle a sense of belonging and connectedness. If that is the case, this move will have a positive impact on overall health and happiness.

In assisted living, seniors get long-term housing and care. They are usually active, but may need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. In assisted living, seniors get personalized care, nutritious meals, a wide range of social activities that cater to their interests, and a sense of community in a safe setting.

When you are looking for a place for your aging loved one, know that many assisted living communities have base level health standards for admitting residents. For example, your relative may need to be able to eat on their own or transfer between a bed and wheelchair without help.

What services do assisted living communities have?

Assisted living communities have services and amenities that help seniors stay healthy and active. This includes planned activities to stay physically active, cultural or intellectual events, and helping people stay social and in a connected community. High end communities have private apartments with kitchenettes and spacious, safety focused bathrooms. Inviting Common Areas. Chef-Prepared Meals. Fitness Center.ome services include restaurant-style dining, activities based on resident interest that empowers residents to remain as active and independent as possible.

Who qualifies for assisted living?

In the US there are state regulations that can set up the parameters of qualifying for assisted living for you. Generally speaking assisted living communities are for seniors or other adults who want to stay as independent as possible, but need some help.

Qualifications to live in an assisted living facility are based on some the person needs assistance performing at least two of what's known as “activities of daily living.” Activities of daily living include things like: walking or moving, bathing, grooming, and feeding them selves. A community is in place to helps people with things they can’t do by themselves.

Also consider that assisted living communities are secured but residents have freedom to come and go. With cognitive impairment concerns related to dementias this can be an issue.

A big part of the decision between care at home or care in an assisted living facility is in the context of what this means for individual lifestyle. Independence does not need to mean isolation.

How much does assisted living cost?

It comes down to what is affordable and where you're at in your life. There are aspects that impact the costs of assisted living based on four main factors:

  1. Community and reputation
  2. Size of the apartment
  3. Location, location, location
  4. Services offered, staffing ratios (staff to residents)
  5. Services the resident needs

Generally speaking, assisted living communities have trained staff in areas such as meals, activities, skilled nursing, house keeping and HR. Some even have concierge services. These wrap around amenities and care services are one of the reasons people want to live here vs independent senior apartments.

Services is one reason why assisted living communities are more expensive compared with independent senior apartments. The average cost of living in a retirement home in the United States is $4,300 per month, according to the survey below:

The core driver of increases in the cost of care services remains supply and demand. Every day until 2030, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 651 and seven out of ten of them will require long-term care services at some point. Genworth’s most recent Cost of Care Survey.

We want to point out another core determinant for residents to be comfortable in an assisted living facility is that they need to be in a stable medical condition and predictable in managing their needs. Basically, there is access to a high level of care — there just can’t be a need for 24/7 monitoring.

Once 24/7 skilled care is determined that it is needed, there is a cost jump between assisted living and nursing home care. Read on to better understand the difference in service and skill with nursing homes full-time medical care.

Assisted Living community or retirement village with meal service image

US nursing home statistics

  • From the Centers For Disease Control
  • Number of US nursing homes: 15,600 (2016)
  • Proportion of nursing homes with for-profit ownership: 69.3% (2016)
  • Number of licensed beds: 1.7 million (2016)

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes are places where elderly adults and others who need more medically extensive care can live. Nurses and skilled professionals help residents with things like bathing, medication management, getting around, nutrition and medically complex concerns.

Because there are a lot of similar terms we want to share a definition directly from Wikipedia:

A nursing home is a facility for the residential care of elderly or disabled people.[1] Nursing homes may also be referred to as skilled nursing facility (SNF), long-term care facilities, old people's homes, assisted living facilities[2] care homes, rest homes, convalescent homes or convalescent care. Often, these terms have slightly different meanings to indicate whether the institutions are public or private

Nursing homes often have certain health care based requirements that need to be met before someone can move in. These requirements can include a doctor’s prescription, a physical examination, and state approval.

If your loved one doesn’t meet these requirements, then they may need to consider moving to an assisted living home or another type of care setting that is more appropriate for their needs.

What services do nursing homes provide?

Nursing homes are a place for older adults who need care 24 hours a day. In addition to the services offered by assisted living communities, nursing homes offer many medically related options:

  • Providing long-term care that is both palliative and preventative
  • Administering prescription medication, including injections, is a process that must be done with care in order to ensure the safety and health of the patient.
  • Meal options to meet the daily nutritional requirements and specific dietary needs of each resident,

Skilled nursing care is one of the most important part of many nursing homes. This means that there are trained professionals available to help your loved one at all times. If your family member is very ill or has a serious medical condition, they may need specialized care from the licensed health care professionals in a skilled nursing home, instead of the senior care aides who are highly trained but may not be medically certified.

Who is right for nursing home care?

Nursing homes is 24/7 medical and general care needs compared with assisted living communities. This makes them a good choice for seniors who need significant medical care and also want companionship, help with activities of daily living, and on-site amenities. If your loved ones require a greater level of care, a nursing home may be the right fit. Consider the following level of need.

  • Require 24 hour monitoring for chronic conditions or poor health
  • Be unable to take care of oneself without help
  • The safety and health of the resident is in jeopardy

How much do skilled nursing facilities cost?

Nursing home costs vary depending on the location, state funding, and not-for-profit status of the nursing home. While variances exist across the country and between urban and rural areas there are some high level considerations.

Generally speaking, skilled nursing facilities are more expensive than other senior living communities because the residents require more help with medical personal care.

The cost difference between assisted living and nursing home care is significant. The median monthly cost of nursing homes in the U.S. is about $7,989 for a semi-private room and $9,086 for a private room, according to Genworth. See below for more:

Unlike many assisted living communities, nursing homes can often be paid for using government assistance for lower-income residents if specific criteria are met.

How to decide which care type is best for your loved one?

Assisted living communities benefit people who are still generally active, but need some assistance with daily tasks like dressing, medication reminders or getting around. If a loved one has chronic or debilitating health concerns that really need daily support, then nursing homes are the safest and most reliable option.

For example, my sister lives in a skilled nursing home because she cannot walk, needs help remembering to take her medicine and has chronic health issues that need supervision. She is there and feels as independent as she can be.

Finding the right situation that meets your loved one’s needs is a vital to keep them healthy and safe. The best way to decide which care type is best is to do your research and talk with people that are experienced with-in housing options for people how need care.

How CircleOf helps

CircleOf caregiver app is made to help you stay in touch with your loved ones circle of support.

You bring the love, support, stories and pictures while the app helps you manage your loved one’s care support and keep everyone in the loop. A popular features in the app is the calendar. You can set up the to automatically synched with your other calendar. With this calendar you are in the know and managing medical updates, medications, and appointments.


NCAL Report: States Continue Strengthening Assisted Living Regulations; Nearly two-thirds of states updated assisted living requirements. This report was Released:Sept 15, 2022.

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