The Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

It’s common among adults to start getting worried about senior members of their family living alone. Several facilities specialize in elderly care, but the variety of options nowadays can be confusing, especially if the similarities don’t explain why some are more expensive than others. You’ll know that the most common options are nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Colorado, but if you need a little more information on their differences, here’s what you need to know.

Nursing Homes

Also called skilled nursing facilities, nursing home services offer the usual care required for seniors, such as assistance with daily living and medication management and administration. However, they are best known for specializing in rehabilitative services for seniors that suffer from severe and debilitating physical or mental conditions. 

The emphasis is on round-the-clock care, best benefiting the elderly with progressive conditions who don’t need to be at a hospital and can’t be cared for by the family at home. Nursing homes are a bit like hospitals in the sense that they have specialists that deal with various things and physical, speech, and occupational therapy.

Assisted Living

Not everyone is suited to the kind of lifestyle led in nursing homes. Some find it restricting and hard to cope with, insisting that they’re not that old yet for its services. It’s why we hear so much about seniors not wanting to “move into a home.” However, some families have their reasons for worrying, especially if the senior wants to be independent to not be a burden but can’t keep up with the daily tasks of personal care, medication management, and even home upkeep. 

Assisted living is an excellent option for seniors who cannot live alone but can still maintain a social and active lifestyle. It’s best for seniors that need minor nursing care and are currently in good health but may still need assistance with daily activities. Assisted living programs are marketed as essentially being in a community, with the residents having suites or apartments, instead of just rooms in the same building. There is an emphasis on having a variety of recreational activities and the opportunities to make new friends, engage in social activities, and pursue their passions.

Key Differences

The main difference between nursing home care and assisted living programs is that while nursing homes emphasize medical and personal care in a clinical setting, assisted living programs administer care via a community setting. This is because the two options cater to different clients: assisted living programs provide a more independent lifestyle for retirees that are relatively healthier, while nursing homes take care of much older clients that may need more personalized and extensive medical care.

Because there are key differences in the clientele, assisted living and nursing homes are also different. Assisted living emphasizes the importance of variety in recreational activities and the option of having private apartments and private baths and kitchenettes. It also has a bigger range of capacity and can accommodate up to 300 residents. 

On the other hand, nursing homes can cater to a smaller number, with the average nursing home accommodating 100 residents. Skilled nursing and extensive supervision are the main principles because they primarily serve individuals that require around-the-clock monitoring because of factors such as being unable to move without assistance or having severe cognitive impairments or more complex health conditions. Recreational activities are limited, and residents can either have private or shared rooms.


Assisted living communities and nursing homes both have good reasons to function the way they do. This means that whatever options families choose will depend on the senior’s needs and desires. There are perks to each option, and the differences might not be so far off: some assisted living communities have more extensive programs for residents that may warrant more supervision (say, individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s), and some nursing homes can provide more variety of recreational activities to entertain the residents. 

There are some conditions and needs that can be negotiated on both sides, while there are also conditions and needs that also cannot be met on both sides. It’s imperative to weigh which needs to prioritize, and which option can cater to it the most.