What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

Apr 8, 2019 by Janet Nordlie 0 Comments

Have you recently left your senior parent's home and are now worried about safety, wondering if he or she should still be living on their own? Or maybe you have an aging spouse you are caring for, but the physical demands and burdens of caregiving have become overwhelming. If so, you may be wondering if it's the right time to start considering senior living care options. You have most likely heard the terms assisted living and nursing home before, but do you know how they differ and which option is best for your family's unique considerations? Below, we will break down the main differences between assisted-living and nursing-home facilities to help differentiate the two.

Differences in Provided Assistance

The biggest difference in nursing homes compared to assisted living facilities is the amount and type of assistance provided. Your loved one's unique situation will determine which living option is appropriate for their needs.

Nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care. Those in nursing homes often have medical conditions that require greater observation and regular close contact with medical professionals, such as a registered nurse or physical therapist. Some of the more complex medical conditions needing this type of full-time care include: diabetes, congestive heart failure, heart disease, moderate/severe dementia, bone fractures, or being bed bound.

Assisted living communities are best for seniors who are still relatively independent, but who may not want to cook or clean anymore, or who might need reminders to take their medications as prescribed.  These seniors don't require specialized care around the clock. They may be able to walk around and dress themselves but could have memory problems that make it difficult to stay on top of needs such as cooking, cleaning, buying groceries, handling finances, and driving. 

Differences in Staff

Nursing homes are required to have a registered nurse clocked in for at least 8 straight hours, 7 days a week, and are required to have a licensed practical nurse present the rest of the time. Physical, speech, and occupational therapists are also commonly staffed in nursing homes as well. Similar to a hospital, daily routine care is performed by nursing assistants, while nurses administer medicine and create care plans for residents.  

Assisted living communities, on the other hand, might not have a registered nurse (RN) on staff at all, or might only have an RN available for care plans and on call as needed. The staffing depends on whether the assisted living community is licensed as a level I or level II facility. For level I, nursing care can be provided by in-home health care providers, much like you would do at a personal residence, for short periods of time during special circumstances. For level II, care staff can include the following: RN, LPN, nursing assistants, personal care aides, medical director, and director of nursing. For more information on the assisted living levels in Arkansas, visit our blog Assisted Living Levels in Arkansas.

Housing Differences 

Nursing homes often resemble a medical facility. Residents are more likely to share rooms with others. Because residents typically have less independence and control over their daily activities, a nursing home's structure will reflect this reality. The facility will be primarily focused on medical care, and thus, limits on autonomy are made based on the health and safety of the residents who need a higher level of supervision. 

Assisted living communities, on the other hand, will look more like a retirement community or gated condo community. Depending on the facility, residents will have their own suite that can be decorated to their liking, and they may have the option to live with their spouse and/or pet. Many assisted living communities also have their own non-medical transportation services intended to allow residents to get out and shop, go to church, visit family, go to a doctor appointment, or attend community activities. These arrangements within assisted living communities are intended to give seniors a great sense of independence. 

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home Costs

Since nursing homes require a greater level of care than assisted living, it's no surprise that they can be more expensive. 

Nursing Home Cost National Averages:

  • Private room - $7,698 per month 
  • Semi private room - $6,844 per month

Assisted Living Cost National Average:

  • One bedroom unit - $3,628 per month

Peachtree Village of Farmington, AR

  • One bedroom unit - $2,700 per month

Peachtree Village of Fort Smith, AR

  • One bedroom unit - $2,650 per month

Peachtree Village of Holiday Island, AR

  • One bedroom unit - $2,500–$2,600 per month

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home: Choosing the Right Option for You

While both options have similar goals to provide a safe, healthy, and happy home, the choice will ultimately come down to your loved one's level of autonomy and his or her physical condition.

Assisted living is best suited for people a with higher level of function and independence who can both participate and benefit from social and wellness programs.

Nursing homes will be best suited for those who need their medical conditions closely monitored and who are generally unable to handle daily living activities themselves. 

Because the major difference between an assisted living community and a nursing home is the extent of physical and medical care provided, the decision will require an accurate assessment from your loved one's doctor, and all family members should be involved in the decision-making process. By considering what physical needs you're looking to meet and how much medical supervision will be required, you can make sure your loved one gets the best care. 


Sometimes understanding assisted living and nursing home differences can be difficult, and we're here to help. If you live in Arkansas and need help determining which living arrangement is best for your loved one, or if you are interested in learning more about our assisted living facilities at Peachtree, please click below. 


Find out more about Peachtree Village!


Topics: Assisted Living

Written by Janet Nordlie