Dear Donna,

My mom fell recently, and she no longer feels safe on her own. She wants to find an independent living arrangement where she can have access to assistance if needed. We have narrowed down her options to an assisted living community or a nursing home, but are having trouble understanding how they differ.

How is assisted living different than a nursing home?

Lauren from Saline, MI

Understanding the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Dear Lauren,

It’s common for family caregivers to have difficulty understanding the difference between assisted living and nursing homes. Many families lack experience with senior living and feel unprepared to make decisions about their loved one’s care.

Understanding their differences is the first step toward helping a loved one find an option that meets their needs.

3 Differences Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

  1. Amount of care provided.

The main difference between an assisted living community and a nursing home is the amount of care provided. Nursing homes offer a higher level of care. If your loved one requires ample assistance with activities of daily living, needs medical care, or is unable to move without help, they would likely benefit from a nursing home.

Seniors who require assistance with personal care and the activities of daily living will typically benefit from assisted living. Seniors may move to assisted living communities because they suffer from mobility issues or have a minor cognitive impairment.

  1. Type of living space.

Another difference between nursing homes and assisted living communities is the living space. A nursing home resident typically shares a bedroom and bathroom with one other person, although some do offer private suites. There are fewer common areas than in an assisted living community and little to no outdoor space. This is largely because nursing homes are primarily designed for seniors who need more complex medical care. Nursing homes often resemble a hospital.

Assisted living communities, on the other hand, offer more independence and privacy. Residents live in private or shared apartments. Most apartments have small kitchenettes and a living room. Assisted living apartments more closely resemble a luxury apartment with common living spaces and plenty of outdoor areas to enjoy nature.

  1. Activities offered to residents.

Because nursing homes are designed for seniors who need medical care, they offer limited life enrichment programs. Some nursing homes have staff or volunteers who work one-on-one with residents, such as reading to them or helping write letters.

Assisted living communities typically offer a full schedule of activities to keep residents socially active and engaged. Heritage Senior Communities, for example, publishes a calendar full of social events and outings every month. Seniors can participate in a variety of options including chair yoga, family night, and church services.

Finding Senior Care for a Loved One Takes Time

Navigating the maze of senior care options takes time and patience. By carefully exploring each option, you can help your senior loved one make a decision that enhances their quality of life.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the differences between nursing homes and assisted living!



Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square location, are fully licensed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as homes for the aged. This means we support and care for our residents in a comfortable, home-like setting. To learn more about our communities, we invite you to schedule a private tour.