Skip to main content
adult day careAssisted LivingcaregiverIdaho Assisted LivingMemory CareRespite Care

What is the Difference Between a Nursing Home and an Assisted Living Home?

Difference Between a Nursing Home and an Assisted Living Home

Choosing the right type of senior living community for yourself or a loved one can be a very daunting task, especially with the variety of options that are available. Two common types of residential care that often get mixed up are assisted living and nursing homes. While they do share similarities in providing supportive services to seniors and residents, they also serve their own distinct purposes and focus on catering to individuals with different needs. Understanding these differences is crucial for making an informed decision regarding long-term care.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living homes offer housing and support services to those who need help with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and managing medications. The services and amenities offered in assisted living also often include housekeeping, transportation, social activities, and healthcare assistance. They are also designed so that their residents often have their own apartments or living spaces. This allows residents to maintain a level of independence that appeals to those who require some assistance with daily tasks but do not require intensive medical care.

An assisted living home team consists of an executive director, activity professionals, caregivers, nurses, kitchen staff, maintenance personnel, and housekeeping staff. These staff members are present and available to assist residents 24/7.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes are also known as skilled nursing facilities. They provide comprehensive medical care and supervision for individuals with complex health needs. The assistance provided in nursing homes includes activities of daily living as well as ongoing medical care such as medication management, wound care, and physical therapy. This type of senior living community is best suited for individuals who have significant medical needs that may require ongoing monitoring and support. Because of this higher level of monitoring, the environment in nursing homes is much more clinical.

Skilled nursing facilities have the usual staff required for helping their residents with daily activities in addition to licensed healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, who provide round-the-clock medical treatment and oversight.

The key differences

While nursing homes and assisted livings share the goal of providing quality senior living care, the following key differences in organization, focus, and environment are important ones to consider when deciding which form of care will best suit you or your loved one.


Due to their different focuses, assisted living homes may have nurses or nurse practitioners on staff, but the medical presence is generally less intensive when compared to nursing homes.

Nursing homes have a higher ratio of skilled medical staff, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, and sometimes therapists, doctors, and social workers. This level of staffing ensures that their residents’ health conditions are closely monitored and that the residents they care for are provided with the specialized medical treatments that they need.

Level of Care

While both assisted living and nursing homes provide caregiver support and aid, the frequency and intensity of that care is dependent upon the needs of the residents that they serve.

Assisted living homes focus on aiding with daily activities and fostering the independence of their residents. Staff members in assisted living homes help with activities of daily living, medication reminders, and coordinating social and recreational activities.

Nursing homes center around providing intensive medical care and supervision. As a result, a more varied level of care is available from therapists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals that are on-site to provide more comprehensive care for residents.


In assisted living homes residents often have their own private apartments and living spaces which nurture independence and privacy. There are communal areas for socializing, dining, and participating in recreational activities. With a more community centric atmosphere, assisted living homes often resemble apartment complexes and other community settings and focus on nurturing that homelike environment.

Nursing homes tend to have a more clinical atmosphere with medical equipment and specialized care units for residents with specific health conditions or rehabilitation. The focus in these homes is on providing medical care and supervision to maintain residents’ health and safety, while making them feel comfortable and at home.

Putting it all together

Both assisted living and nursing homes provide quality long-term care. By understanding the differences in focus and care between assisted living and nursing homes, you can make an informed decision about which long-term care option will best suit you or your loved one’s needs. Assisted living homes are a great option for individuals who require some assistance with daily activities but do not require intensive medical care. Nursing homes provide medical services for those who have more complex health needs. By considering these differences and the individual needs and preferences you or your loved one may have, you can choose the care setting that is best suited to ensure well-being and comfort.

Let Us Help You Today!

We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about careers at The Cottages and the care that our residents receive at our Idaho locations. We are experts in assisted living, memory care, respite, adult day care, and have been serving seniors for over 20 years. Our small home-like senior living homes and specially-trained team members offer an atmosphere that promotes the well-being of your loved one.  

If you have any questions, would like to tour one of the Idaho assisted living or memory care homes, or speak with one of our licensed administrators, please fill out the form below. Please mention which location(s) you’re interested in.