As we age and begin to require assistance to accomplish day-to-day tasks, there are choices to make about the future. It is not unexpected to feel many different emotions as you begin to consider moving loved ones into a nursing home or assisted living facility. Though some of these emotions may be positive, uncertainty can weigh heavily on the choice, especially when you first begin exploring your options.

The first distinction to make in your journey to finding the support that works for you is choosing between a nursing home and an assisted living facility. Though there are some similarities, distinct differences must be considered to ensure the most positive experience for you or your loved one. One important part of making this choice is gathering the information required to thoroughly understand your options and choose the one that fits your needs.

Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Differences

These two terms are frequently used interchangeably; however, they were each designed to serve different types of residents.

Level of Care

Nursing homes will have more medically trained and certified staff, including registered nurses, to support residents with extensive medical needs. Medical professionals will be on staff overnight to ensure high-quality medical care is available to medically fragile residents 24/7.

Assisted living facilities will provide less medical care and typically keep medical staff like registered nurses on staff during the day but not overnight. These facilities are meant to facilitate independence while providing the support the residents need. Assisted living facilities still provide high-quality care for the residents; however, there is a lower level of care provided, meaning there are fewer things with which the residents are assisted.

Facility Atmosphere

Nursing homes will often feel more clinical and less like a home because medical professionals must be able to provide optimal care to all residents quickly. This care results in an environment that feels more professional and less like a home, especially since most nursing home residents will share a room with a roommate. Though nursing homes aim to be comfortable and welcoming, they must focus more on safety as their residents will often have higher risks for injury or illness.

Assisted living facilities are instead designed to feel more home-like and supportive of a community atmosphere. These facilities provide residents with a safe environment to retain as much independence as possible while also having support where it is needed. Frequently, these facilities are built to allow residents their own room and privacy while also creating a close, safe community.

Costs And Insurance Coverage

Nursing homes offer more care from higher-certified staff on a 24/7 basis. This will increase the costs of care to almost double the cost of assisted living facilities; however, most state and private insurance will cover at least some of the cost of a nursing home stay.

Assisted living facilities are usually less costly than nursing homes because they provide less specific medical care and allow residents to care for themselves to their tolerance. The downside is that state and private insurance rarely cover any care from assisted living facilities.

Choosing The Right Fit

Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities will provide medication management, supportive services, life enrichment, well-balanced meals, and a safe environment. Determining the right path for you or a loved one lies in the differences between the two facilities.

A nursing home may be a better fit if the person requiring care:

  • Has a severe illness or injury
  • Requires higher-skilled medical assistance
  • Needs constant and consistent care

An assisted living facility may be a better option if the person requiring care:

  • Has a consistent and stable mental state
  • Does not require significant medical assistance
  • Requires assistance with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, and dressing

It is also possible that a candidate for an assisted living facility will progress to requiring a nursing home level of care, so this choice is dynamic and fluid, depending on the current circumstances.


Q: Will Residents at a Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Have Access to Doctors?

A: Both residents at a nursing home and assisted living facility will have access to doctors. Nursing home residents will generally have in-house or visiting medical staff to assess their condition and meet their needs. Assisted living facility residents will typically have access to their own doctors outside of the facility and will travel to their appointments.

Q: Are Nursing Homes or Assisted Living Facilities More Expensive?

A: Nursing homes will generally be more expensive than assisted living facilities because they provide a higher level of care with medically trained staff. The total cost for these services depends on many factors, including any benefits the resident is entitled to. Though they are more expensive, nursing homes are often covered by state and private insurance, whereas assisted living facilities are not. This can make an assisted living facility have higher out-of-pocket costs for a resident.

Q: How Will I Know It Is Time To Move From an Assisted Living Facility to a Nursing Home?

A: It can be difficult to make the transition from assisted living to a nursing home because of the notable loss of independence; however, it is an important transition to make when the circumstances call for it. The signs include worsening emotional disorders, chronic illness requiring 24/7 care, declining mental acuity, financial irresponsibility, compounding medical issues, or an increase in fall injuries.

Q: What Services Do Most Assisted Living Facilities Provide?

A: Assisted living facilities are designed to create a balance between resident independence and the support required to meet their needs. The services provided by assisted living facilities include healthcare management, housekeeping, security, meal service, recreational activities, and help with daily activities like dressing. Some facilities will charge residents for the individual services they require, so it is important to thoroughly vet the facility’s cost before any decisions are made.

Rocky Mountain Assisted Living

Hopefully, this guide helped you determine whether a nursing home or assisted living facility is better for yourself or a loved one. Rocky Mountain Assisted Living offers many benefits of transitioning to assisting living if your needs align more with an assisted living facility. Contact us today to explore how we can help improve your quality of life by providing a supportive place to come home to.