What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

Author: Sarah Williams

Reviewed By: Brindusa Vanta

The difference between assisted living and nursing homes is the services each setting provides. Facilities address unique needs, employing personnel with a range of training, certifications and skills, while also offering different fees and funding options.  

Compare Services and Staffing

Assisted living communities provide a communal environment for seniors who can’t live independently but don’t require clinical attention or around-the-clock medical monitoring. Caregivers follow individualized service plans to help residents with personal care and everyday activities, including bathing and grooming, while encouraging seniors’ independence. Other common services include transportation and housekeeping. Facilities provide meals and recreational programs and offer amenities such as fitness centers. Although many communities provide nursing oversight, trained aides deliver most support services. Depending on state regulations, some facilities also employ certified nursing aides who can administer medications.

However, nursing homes provide 24/7 supervision, skilled nursing care and rehabilitation therapies for medically needy seniors in a clinical environment. Residents include those with chronic or complex health conditions alongside individuals recovering from injuries, illnesses and surgeries. Nursing home staff generally includes registered and licensed nurses, medical social workers, therapists, behavioral specialists and medical directors.

Costs and Financial Assistance

According to Genworth’s 2024 Cost of Care Survey, the median cost of assisted living in the United States is $5,350 per month. Conversely, typical monthly fees for nursing home care stand at $8,669 for a semi-private room and $9,733 for private accommodations.

State Medicaid programs fund nursing facility care for qualifying seniors. Eligibility requirements vary among states but include financial limits and level of care needs. Financial assistance may cover room and board, medical services, personal care and rehabilitation therapies. On the other hand, Medicaid isn’t obligated to cover assisted living. However, many states operate Home and Community-Based Services waiver programs that give financial aid to eligible seniors. Such waivers aim to prevent or delay admission to an institutional setting. Criteria vary but usually include functional care needs and limited finances. Funding covers support services and recreational activities but doesn’t include bed or board costs.