Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Facilities: What's the Difference?


3 min read
03 May
03May

Making the decision to move into a senior living community or nursing home can be a difficult one. Sometimes your loved one just needs some extra help with daily activities or they don’t want the responsibility of caring for a house. Other times it’s more of an emergency and they have a fall or an illness and can’t go back to living alone.

Everyone has a different reason for making the decision to move but there is one thing they have in common: there are many questions regarding senior living and it requires time, research and patience. It is difficult to not become overwhelmed when you realize how many communities are out there. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016 there were over 28,900 assisted living facilities and more than 15,600 nursing homes in the United States.

For Americans over the age of 65, almost 70 percent will require long-term care.  This is a common circumstance that leaves most people confused as they have little experience in the senior living industry. For example, pricing and terminology which includes how to marshal family financial resources, the role of Medicaid, how to plan for declining health and increasing care requirements. In this article you will learn about 2 things that are often confused: nursing homes and assisted living facilities.


Understanding the Differences Between Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Facilities


Assisted living communities are places that provide housing for seniors along with options to add additional care services. In assisted living facilities people may need help with daily living activities which includes: dressing, bathing, eating, toileting, showering, transferring and medication management. The goal is to help you remain as independent as possible while helping ensure your health, safety and well-being.  

In assisted living communities seniors typically have a 1, 2 or 3 bedroom apartment. This gives the seniors the privacy of their own place but the option to socialize with other residents. They are set up for safety so seniors can easily call staff if they are in need of assistance.  The communities also offer many activities like games, movies, outings to go shopping, hair stylists in house and many other fun activities. They also provide meals, laundry services, housekeeping, and transportation services.

As your loved ones needs increase the assisted living facility is able to provide the increased care services along with an increase in cost. Should a resident require more care for dementia or Alzheimer’s then some have a memory care unit that has even more safety features for a resident to move into.

Nursing Homes also called Skilled Nursing Facilities provide rehabilitation and therapy services. These facilities are a transition between patients being at the hospital and not quite being able to go home. Nursing homes are typically for a short duration while the patient rehabilitates. Many people need skilled nursing after an illness, injury, or joint replacement. They provide speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Most people are in nursing homes for less than 3 months.  Nursing homes are most often set up similar to a hospital where you will have less privacy- often times a shared room with another patient.  They have nurses on staff 24/7 for the increased care needs of the patients.


Cost Differences for Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Facilities


Senior living communities can be quite expensive and it is important to plan ahead for unexpected costs. Assisted living communities are most often “private pay” which means that Medicaid does not cover the cost of living there. There are few that will take a spend down of 2 years. This means you pay privately for 2 years before the community will accept Medicaid as payment. You can qualify for VA benefits to help cover the cost if you served in the military. The price range is between $2,500-$9,000 per month. 

Nursing homes are more expensive than assisted living facilities because of the increase in care, but if a patient meets the requirements then Medicare can cover the costs. Medicare will pay for skilled nursing after you have been hospitalized for at least 3 days. They will pay for up to 100 days during a benefit period. A benefit period starts when you go into the hospital and ends when you have not received any hospital care or skilled nursing care for 60 days. Medicare will pay 100% of the first 20 days and for the next 80 days you pay a co-payment. In the state of Washington the median rate was $266 per day for a semi-private room and $289 per day for a private room. That is approximately $7,980-$8,670 per month.


Deciding Between an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home


It is can be a difficult decision when planning the next step for a loved one. You have to make the decision between nursing home or assisted living and then going through the process of finding the right one. 

Living Well is an excellent resource for you because we are industry experts. We have done all the research and can help match the perfect community for your needs. We save you time, reduce your stress and provide you with the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision. Most families have never had to navigate the maze of senior living so it is important to have someone guiding you through the process, and that is exactly what we are here to do!

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