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Senior Housing: How does Assisted Living Differ from Other Levels of Care?

December 17, 2018 in: Senior Housing Phoenix Assisted Living

A senior assisted living center is not your grandma’s nursing home. Most people use the term “assisted living” for all types of senior care, including a nursing home, an adult retirement community, senior living homes or something else altogether. However, if your loved one is in need of more support and care than your family can give, it is time to know your jargon.

This article explains the differences between two of the most important types of elderly care, assisted living and nursing homes. Although both these centers offer you many of the same facilities, two of the biggest difference between them is the level of medical care and independence.

Assisted Living Vs Nursing Homes

Here are some of the biggest differences.

Who They Serve:

Assisted living and nursing homes offer skilled medical facilities but they both have different purposes. Assisted living centers are good options for senior citizens, who need additional help with activities of daily living and are looking for long-term living. They also offer socializing activities, participation in community events, and various educational and recreational classes. Some senior assisted living center offer therapy and wellness programs and allow dentists, geriatricians, chiropractor or other medical professionals to visit residents on-site. Many assisted living centers also offer memory care unit for those who have difficulty in remembering things, including Alzheimer’s patients. They are also equipped with medical alert systems.

In contrast, nursing homes are for those senior individuals who have more complex medical needs, including post-stroke rehabilitation. Nursing homes offer 24-hour monitoring and individual attention to each resident. They may have on-site doctors or other clinicians as they prioritize medical aid. They offer an effective system of managing people who have debilitating medical issues, cognitive impairment and who need more help to go through their daily activities than assisted living can provide. Most people don’t plan a long-term stay but some do end up doing so. Nursing homes make senior citizens better before they can go back to their home or be shifted to an assisted living facility.


Generally, nursing homes are twice as big as assisted living centers, with over a hundred units. Residents of nursing homes usually live in a shared room or private single ones while assisted living centers offer one-bedroom apartments, often with kitchenettes. Both provide recreational activities, however, those in assisted living have a wide variety of options to choose from, including field trips, book clubs and visit to the theater. A nursing home may look like a medical facility because of the type of care it prioritizes, while senior living homes look more like upscale community living centers for the elderly.


All nursing homes are certified to participate in Medicaid or Medicare, or both and are governed federally. Some senior assisted living centers, however, may be covered under Medicare but their eligibility and coverage vary and they are regulated state to state.


Perhaps, one of the biggest contrasts between assisted living and nursing home is the level of autonomy. Residents in assisted living homes can roam about freely, drive their own cars and even cook themselves. However, people in nursing homes have greater restrictions and require greater monitoring. Taking a walk in the park or driving a car is impossible for them as they cannot even leave their rooms unless assisted.

If you are having trouble deciding which facility is best suited for your loved one, consider visiting an assisted living center or a nursing home. The staff there should be able to guide you about the kind of services they offer, their flexibility and the daily activities of the inhabitants. Maybe assisted living isn't what's best for your loved one.  Learn about the differnece between independing living and assisted living here.

With some professional guidance and help from your loved ones, you can decide the best route for the senior in your care. 

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