Deciding whether a nursing home or a long-term care facility is right for your family’s needs can be a confusing challenge. That may be because these two types of care aren’t really two separate and distinct options. A nursing home is a type of long-term care facility, but not all long-term care settings are nursing homes. Some other examples of long-term care communities include assisted living and memory care.
This guide will help you determine which type of senior community is best for you. It explains whether you need the high level of medical care provided in a nursing home or a more affordable service offered by assisted living communities and other long-term care settings, the costs of care, and other useful information.

Nursing Home

Long-Term Care Facility




Care Provided

Skilled nursing services, assistance with ADLs

Assistance with ADLs, memory care, skilled nursing

Average Monthly Cost

$7,908 for a semi-private room

$4,500 for assisted living, more for other types

Who Should Consider It

Those who need medical care or supervision 24 hours per day

Those who need some level of assistance to live a healthy life

Nursing Home

Nursing homes, which are often mistaken for other types of long-term care, are skilled nursing facilities that focus on providing medical care for their residents. They also assist their residents with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and grooming, when necessary. Nursing homes are meant to serve patients who need a high level of medical attention but don’t require admission to a hospital. This can include seniors needing rehabilitation, therapy or preventative treatment. Many states strive to find home solutions for seniors in need whenever possible, such as home health care, using nursing homes as a last resort. 

Federal law requires that licensed nursing homes must offer a broad range of medical services for their residents in order to receive funding from CMS. In addition to skilled nursing care, they must provide:

  • Physical, occupational and speech therapies
  • Nutrition and dietary assistance
  • Dental and vision care
  • Medically-related social services
  • Cognitive rehabilitation services
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Personal hygiene products and assistance

Since nursing homes are focused on medical care, most amenities are geared toward improving or maintaining the health of residents. Some facilities also have a variety of social and recreational opportunities, such as games, clubs, live entertainment and elegant dining options. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey for 2021, the average cost for a semiprivate room in a nursing home in the United States is $7,908 per month. For a private room, it’s $9,034 per month. Part of these costs may be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, but families are expected to cover other costs when able. 

Long-Term Care Facility

A long-term care facility provides room, board and assistance with daily activities over an extended period of time to promote the health and well-being of its residents. Nursing homes are one type of long-term care facility. Assisted living and memory care communities also fall into this category. Independent living communities, which are also for seniors, aren’t usually described as long-term care facilities because they don’t offer much assistance with their residents’ daily needs. In some states, long-term care facilities are referred to as residential care facilities or other names. 

The services and amenities available in long-term care vary by facility type, but almost all provide assistance with daily activities, such as hygiene, dressing and mobility. Memory care communities offer an additional level of care, including therapies and cognitive activities, for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Nursing homes provide the highest level of care, which includes skilled nursing and other specialized medical services. 

The Genworth Cost of Care Survey for 2021 provides cost information for three different types of long-term care facilities in the United States. These are the national average monthly costs for these communities:

  • Assisted living: $4,500
  • Memory care: $5,625
  • Nursing home (semi-private room): $7,908
  • Nursing home (private room): $9,034

Apart from facility type, your long-term care community will have different rates based on its unique programs and staff-to-resident ratios. Resort-style communities may have pools, theaters, beauty spas and other luxury amenities that impact monthly rates. Costs in certain states can also vary significantly from the national averages, so we recommend looking up your city to calculate your potential expenses. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of long-term care?

Some examples of long-term care include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities and adult residential care homes. 

How long is the average stay in a nursing home?

According to a study from the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, the average stay in a nursing home is 13.7 months. The median is 5 months. 

Who pays for long-term care facilities?

Medicaid, Medicare, VA benefits and other government programs pay for long-term care facilities. Families also contribute through direct payments, long-term care insurance and other means.