Tailored Care for Different Needs: Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

A caregiver with a nursing home resident in a wheelchair

Transitioning into Senior Living can often feel overwhelming for seniors and their loved ones, and understandably so. It can be hard to make important decisions about the level of care and type of environment that best suits your needs and desires for your golden years.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer two distinct paths, each designed to enhance residents’ quality of life through specialized services and community support. However, some key differences may make one option better for your unique situation. 

So how do you know which one to choose?  Whether you value more independence or need comprehensive health care, understanding these Senior Living options is the first step toward finding the right fit.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what these Senior Living communities offer and how they differ so you can make an informed decision that’s best for yourself or your loved one. 

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living facilities are designed for seniors who want to maintain a level of independence but require minor nursing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). They offer a unique blend of residential living and personalized support tailored to each resident’s needs.

An assisted living community is particularly beneficial for those who don’t need the intensive medical care provided in nursing homes but still need help with some everyday tasks. It strikes the perfect balance between providing assistance and allowing independence, making it an ideal choice for seniors looking to thrive in a supportive community setting.


Most assisted living facilities are structured like apartment communities and offer a mix of private and semi-private living options. You can choose from various apartment styles, such as studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom units, each equipped with personal amenities and sometimes kitchenettes. 

These apartments provide you with personal space while also giving you the security of immediate access to care and assistance when needed. Their design has features like grab bars in bathrooms and emergency call systems in each room for ease of movement and safety. 

Additionally, common areas such as dining halls, libraries, and activity centers encourage social interaction and community engagement to enhance the overall living experience for assisted living residents.

Basic Services

Typically, assisted living communities provide services such as:

  • Meal preparation
  • Housekeeping
  • Medication management
  • Transportation

…so that residents can enjoy a comfortable, worry-free lifestyle. They also often have access to various social and recreational activities to maintain their mental and physical health. 

The Benefits of Assisted Living

Assisted living communities allow seniors to engage with peers in common spaces like dining rooms, pursue hobbies, and participate in community events and outings, fostering an active social life and a strong sense of belonging. The added availability of structured support helps prevent common feelings of isolation and helps manage the complexities of aging with dignity and respect.

What is a Nursing Home?

Also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes are a care option for seniors who need higher levels of medical care and supervision than those typically provided in an assisted living facility. 

Nursing homes cater to individuals with serious health conditions, those recovering from surgery or illness, or seniors with chronic care needs that require constant medical attention. They’re perfect for families who seek peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are in a safe environment where their medical and personal care needs are addressed.


Unlike the apartment-style living of assisted living communities, nursing homes are more medically oriented, with rooms that may resemble hospital rooms more than typical home bedrooms. The facilities are equipped with advanced medical equipment and adaptations to assist nursing home residents with severe mobility or health issues.

Common areas in nursing homes are designed to be easily accessible and safe for all residents, including those with limited mobility. Many nursing homes also offer spaces for physical therapy and communal activities so that residents can engage with one another and maintain physical activity levels appropriate to their health conditions.

Basic Services

Nursing homes are staffed with trained healthcare professionals including nurses, therapists, and on-call doctors to make sure that all medical needs are met. A nursing home’s focus is on providing:

  • Comprehensive health care
  • Management of complex and chronic conditions
  • Rehabilitation services like physical, occupational, and speech therapy

The Benefits of Nursing Homes

Nursing home care offers various benefits, including:

  • Access to skilled medical care and rehabilitative therapies
  • Structured activities help reduce anxiety and confusion and provide a sense of stability and security for seniors with cognitive impairments or serious health issues
  • A community environment with social interactions that help combat loneliness and promote a sense of belonging

A nurse providing medication assistance to a senior

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home: Key Differences to Know

In short, assisted living communities are apartment-like facilities designed to assist with Activities of Daily Living and a social lifestyle for seniors who want to maintain a level of independence. Conversely, nursing homes are hospital-like facilities designed to provide supervision and round-the-clock care for individuals requiring more advanced medical care. 

But the differences don’t stop there. These residential care facilities also differ in their ideal patients, specific services offered, entry criteria, and costs.

Ideal Patients

Assisted living facilities are ideal for seniors who need help with ADLs but still value their independence. They may need help with these daily tasks but want to live in a community setting that offers social activities and some level of autonomy. 

On the other hand, nursing homes cater to individuals who need a higher level of care than what assisted living provides. These skilled nursing facilities are best suited for:

  • Seniors with significant, ongoing health care needs requiring 24/7 supervision and care.
  • Individuals recovering from surgery or severe illness who need intensive rehabilitation and nursing care.
  • Residents with severe cognitive impairments like advanced Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia who need specialized care and secure environments.
  • People requiring assistance with all ADLs.
  • Those with conditions that require regular medical interventions such as wound care, IV therapy, or ventilator support.

Services Offered

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes also differ in the services offered. 

Assisted living communities focus on providing a supportive environment that enhances residents’ independence while giving them access to necessary assistance. These services aim to create a balanced lifestyle that allows you to enjoy a high quality of life while having your health and safety needs met. Key services offered include:

  • Personal care services
  • Medication management
  • Meals and dining
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Transportation
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Wellness programs

On the other hand, nursing homes offer a comprehensive range of advanced medical care and support services for individuals with significant health needs. These services include:

  • 24/7 skilled nursing care
  • Rehabilitative therapies
  • Advanced medical care like wound care, respiratory care, and intravenous therapy
  • Specialized care units for those with conditions like Alzheimer’s or other dementias
  • Nutritional support and meal plans
  • Social services, including counseling and transition planning
  • Recreational activities

Entry Criteria

The entry criteria for assisted living facilities typically focus on assessing the level of care a potential resident may need and ensuring the facility can adequately meet those needs. The assessment might include evaluations of mobility, health, cognitive function, and medical history. Many facilities require potential residents to be able to perform certain activities on their own, such as moving from a bed to a wheelchair or eating independently.

Entry into a nursing home usually requires a more comprehensive medical assessment than assisted living since they provide skilled nursing care. The criteria often include a physician’s assessment and confirmation that potential nursing home residents require 24-hour medical supervision or have major functional impairments due to severe health issues. The assessment also typically involves detailed evaluations of medical needs, including:

  • Physical therapy needs
  • Medication management
  • Specialized care requirements


The cost of assisted living facilities can vary widely based on location, services offered, and the level of luxury the facility provides. On average, the national median monthly cost for assisted living is roughly $4,500 per month ($54,000 annually)

This cost typically covers room and board, basic utilities, and basic services like meal preparation, housekeeping, and transportation. Some facilities may charge more if you need higher levels of personal care or specialized medical services.

Nursing homes are generally more expensive than assisted living facilities due to their extensive medical and personal care services. The national median cost for a room in a nursing home is about $8,000 for a shared room and $9,000 for a private room. Unlike assisted living facilities, nursing home costs cover the intensive care, 24-hour supervision, and medical services provided.

So how do you know the best choice for you and your budget? It depends on your specific care needs and financial circumstances. 

Assisted living is typically more economical for seniors who need less intensive care and can manage their daily activities with some assistance. In contrast, while nursing homes are more expensive, they’re more cost-effective for those who need continuous medical care and supervision. The higher cost may be justified by the level of care provided, especially when considering the cost of the same care provided at home or in other settings.

Get Compassionate Care at an Assisted Living Facility with Mira Vie

Choosing the right Senior Living option is an important decision that impacts the quality of care and the quality of life. While assisted living offers a semi-independent lifestyle with personalized support and help with daily activities, nursing homes provide intensive, 24-hour medical care for individuals with significant health needs. Understanding these differences is key to making an informed decision that aligns with your care requirements and lifestyle preferences.

Have you found that an assisted living environment is suited to you or your loved one’s needs? We invite you to explore Mira Vie Senior Living, where Senior Living is synonymous with living well. We understand that every senior has unique needs and preferences and pride ourselves on creating environments where every moment is cherished and every day is an opportunity to thrive, whether that’s Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, or Respite Care.

Contact us today or request a tour below to discover how we can make a difference in your Senior Living experience.

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