Changing health concerns can be the catalyst to make you consider different categories of senior care. Whether it’s your own health or that of a loved one, understanding what types of care are available can help you make smart decisions about the future. Assisted living and hospice care are two senior living options that can help. 

These two care types serve very different functions. Hospice care provides comfort and care to people in the last months of their lives. Those who have a life-shortening illness can get spiritual support, medical assistance and social services, and families also have bereavement support. Assisted living, on the other hand, is for seniors who are mostly independent but need some help with daily activities. Living as part of a community also gives seniors opportunities to build relationships and stay active. However, health care isn’t an integral part of assisted living. 

This guide explains both hospice care and assisted living. You can find information about the services that are included, the cost of care and who should consider each type of care.

Assisted Living

Hospice Care




Care Provided

Assistance with ADLs, medication management, meals, activities

Palliative care, social and spiritual services, bereavement support for families

Monthly Average Cost


$4,560 in-home, $19,770 residential

Who Should Consider It

Seniors who need help with ADLs

Terminally ill people


Hospice care provides a range of services to people with terminal illnesses. It’s designed to assist those who can no longer benefit from aggressive medical treatment to cure a disease and are likely in the last 6 months of their lives. Hospice care is not just for seniors; it can benefit anyone in these circumstances. 

As most people wish to spend their last days in a familiar setting, hospice care can be provided in a variety of places. A hospice team can visit you at home or in an assisted living facility if you don’t need complex medical care to be comfortable. Inpatient hospice care is also available. These facilities allow families and loved ones to visit whenever they can to help patients stay connected to their loved ones. 

The care provided to people in hospice is designed to improve quality of life and help people die with dignity. If needed, palliative care is included. This helps control pain and other symptoms and makes a person’s final months as comfortable as possible. Hospice care can also include social services, spiritual services, help with activities of daily living or ADLs and respite care. Bereavement support is offered to families after the patient passes. 

The cost of in-home hospice care averages $150 per day, which equals $4,560 per month. Inpatient hospice facilities are significantly more expensive at $650 per day or $19,770 per month. People receiving hospice care only pay for the services they require. Often family and friends take care of some services, which saves money. Hospice care is covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Many agencies also offer free care or costs based on a sliding scale to low-income people. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living is a long-term, residential senior living option for older adults who are mostly healthy but can no longer live independently. The main aim of assisted living care is to help seniors with ADLs. This includes grooming, dressing, toileting and mobility. 

Many communities also have some forms of health care, such as visiting physicians or physical and occupational therapists. If this isn’t available, residents can generally arrange to receive this care in the facility. As health care isn’t a core service of assisted living, it’s best suited for people who don’t need regular medical care.

It’s important to note that assisted living isn’t offered in a clinical setting. Residents live in private rooms or apartments and have access to a range of communal spaces. Depending on the community, this can include game rooms, libraries and living rooms, as well as outdoor areas such as gardens and patios. 

Most assisted living facilities create a home-like community for residents. Activities are offered to keep people engaged and help them connect with their neighbors. Exercise classes, bingo, educational lectures and group outings are some examples of the activities provided. Meals are included and are generally served in dining rooms where residents can socialize. Often, scheduled transportation is also provided, either to appointments or local shops and facilities. Housekeeping and laundry services may be included, giving residents more time to take advantage of social activities. 

The average cost of assisted living is $4,500 per month in the United States. This price can vary greatly depending on where you live and the services and amenities available in the community. Although it’s not generally covered by Medicare or health insurance policies, Medicaid programs in some states can help you pay for assisted living care. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does hospice care work?

Once you and your doctor agree that hospice care is the right choice, you choose a hospice care agency. The agency handles the paperwork to formally enroll you with their organization. Your hospice team sets up a care plan and establishes a routine to take care of your needs. This routine can change as your needs change. 

How long do people usually stay in hospice?

Hospice care is only available if your doctor has certified that you have a terminal illness and a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Most people enroll in hospice when they’re close to death, and around half die within 3 weeks of starting hospice treatment. On the other end of the scale, 12-15% of hospice patients are still alive after 6 months. Medicare still covers hospice care after 6 months if a doctor certifies you still have a terminal illness. If your condition improves or goes into remission, you can leave hospice care. 

How long do people usually stay in assisted living?

The Administration for Community Living states that the average duration of assisted living care is less than 1 year. Different figures from the National Center for Assisted Living show that the median stay in assisted living is 22 months. Around 60% of these residents transition to nursing home care.