Assisted Living vs Nursing Home – What are the Differences?

With numerous types of senior living options available, it’s easy to confuse one with another. You have most likely heard the terms assisted living home and nursing home.  However, not a lot of people know the difference between the two. In searching for a senior living community for your loved one, it pays to know your options. In this article we will explore the differences between assisted living vs nursing home and assisted living facility vs nursing home.

Assisted Living Facility vs Nursing Home

Assisted living facilities are primarily for seniors who are unable to live safely on their own. They are typically large complexes with anywhere from 40 to 300 beds.  They cater to people who need help with activities such as:

  • Cooking
  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Medication management
  • Toileting

The staff is available 24/7 to keep an eye on your loved one. Many assisted living facilities may be one part of a large complex that includes a continuum of services including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, are for very high levels of care. Although large assisted living facility complexes can have a skilled nursing facility on site, many don’t. Especially smaller ones.

Big Facilities Can Feel Like Big Apartments

Residents in large facilities live in private or semi-private apartments that may be fully furnished with a limited kitchen area. Three meals and snacks are provided by the facility.  Seniors can mingle and eat in a central dining room. They also offer transportation services and have social activities and events to keep seniors socially active. Most assisted living facilities offer basic nursing services on-site or off-site depending on the facility. Some also offer a special care unit for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.

The price range for assisted living facilities can be as low as $4,500 to $12,000 or more a month depending on the type of apartment and the level of care required. For Alzheimer’s care, the cost ranges from $5,000 to $15,000 sometimes a very fancy apartment. Prices may vary depending on the facility and the geographic location. When thinking of an assisted living facility vs nursing home, the nursing home may have prices even higher than that due to the high level of care required.


Homes Certified for Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

This type of senior care home is designed for seniors who prefer a smaller, more home-like setting, at a more attractive price. Just like most senior living, they offer food services as well as assistance with daily activities. There is a very big difference when you compare this type of assisted living vs nursing homes.

Many homes will contract with a registered nurse and work with mobile medical services to still provide medical help. They just won’t have the medical people on the staff like a nursing home will. By contracting with outside services, an assisted living home can keep their costs lower.

The homes are typically former residential homes that have been converted into assisted living businesses. Sometimes you can drive by an assisted living home and not even know it isn’t just another house. You can see examples of this with our assisted living homes located in Surprise and Goodyear, Arizona:

Assisted living vs nursing homes differ in that they also provide care and assistance to only a handful of seniors. Many nursing homes can cater to dozens if not a hundred people, much like a hospital. In fact, most residential care homes only have a maximum of 10-15 seniors. This helps the home to provide a more personal and a homey living environment.

Residential care homes are also known as:

  • Board and Care Homes
  • Group Homes
  • Adult Family Homes
  • Personal Care Homes
  • Adult Foster Care

Assisted Living Facility vs Nursing Home Services Offered

Residential care homes and facilities are a live-in housing and care options for seniors who do not need 24/7 personal attention. Only hospitals, home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) provide constant 1:1 attention.  This level of care is very expensive. Most residential care homes typically provide:

  • A room that’s either shared or private
  • Meal preparation
  • Laundry
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation services
  • Reminding seniors to take medications and medication administering
  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Toileting, and
  • Sometimes even financial and healthcare management


The Difference Between Assisted Living Facilities and Residential Care Homes

Based on the services offered by residential care and assisted living, you may wonder how they differ from one another. They are very similar. Usually the main difference between the two is the size of the facility, and the cost. Assisted living communities are generally larger than residential care in terms of size and the number of residents. Communities may be fancier but cost 20-50% more. Sometimes a lot more!

An assisted living home environment may offer a more personal care for seniors. Generally, one caregiver is assigned to three to four residents. There are fewer residents in an assisted living home. For seniors who are still lead a very active lifestyle, independent living such as a continuing care facility may be a better option. An assisted living community offers a variety of social activities and events, such as

  • Focus group discussions
  • Outings, or
  • Group exercises.

Residential care is better for seniors who benefit from a more individualized care. An assisted living home can still have a host of activities. You can see some of the activities at our assisted living homes here.

Location, Location, Location

Another advantage of an assisted living home is that they are more widespread. Large assisted living facilities may be in one central location in a city whereas an assisted living home can be anywhere there is a neighborhood. Many families find that location is a huge factor in picking an assisted living solution. They want to visit their loved one easily.

Scouting for senior living facilities – whether an assisted living home or a larger facility – can be complicated because of the lack of federal standards for these communities. These regulations and licensing rules differ from each state and some states haven’t even set standards.

For states that license residential care homes, you can check out surveys conducted on each home at your local licensing offices. You can also ask the facilities to show you results of the survey. If you want to kick-start your search for a local licensing agency, you may contact your state’s department of aging. Here is a link to the Arizona Department of Health Services. This blog post has a video showing how to look up an assisted living home to see how they did on their last inspection.

Many assisted living homes in the United States are run by different types of individuals – from immigrants, veterans, to registered nurses. This is one of the reasons why each living option varies greatly from one another. Some facilities are run by the owner themselves while others are run by caregivers on shifts. It is important to determine the needs of your loved one and the level of care they need. It’s best to visit different types of homes and compare them before making a life-changing decision.

Pricing for An Assisted Living Home

For residential care communities, the monthly cost is typically 20-50% less than the price of assisted living facilities. However, it is important to remember that the prices vary greatly based on the services offered, and the geographic location.

There are different programs that can help you pay for senior living, such as long-term care insurance, Aid and Attendance Benefits for Veterans, and Medicaid. Medicaid also helps you pay for medical expenses and long-term care for seniors with low income who can’t afford to pay for private care.

Even if you qualify for Medicaid, you may not be able to use it. An assisted living home or facility must be certified by the state where it resides for Medicaid residents. If they are not certified, Medicaid will not pay for their care. As for Medicare, it doesn’t help in paying for residential care fees since it does not cover custodial care.

If you want to know more about assisted living facilities, A Paradise for Parents staff and our resources can answer all your questions. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (623) 295-9890 or email us at to know more about the services we offer. You can also fill out an online form located on our homepage. We’d be happy to assist you in your search for an assisted living facility for your loved one.

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Picture of From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

Mr. Cranmer went from Air Force Special Operations Pilot to Airline Pilot to running a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant after 9/11 ended his flying career. Now he is bringing his business expertise to his true passion - taking care of seniors in his 'A Paradise for Parents' assisted living homes in Surprise and Goodyear, AZ. Read Hal's crazy career story, 'From Air Force Pilot to Assisted Living Owner'. Click the button to send Hal a message!

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