One thing that confuses many families that are caring for an elderly relative is what the various options for them are when it comes to staying at a facility.  While there are several different types of facilities, two of the most popular are nursing homes and an assisted living facility.  Let’s take a more in depth look at both of these.

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living:  What’s the Difference? 

nursing-homes-versus-assisted-livingNursing Home:  Generally a nursing home is a facility in which residents require constant nursing and are subject to deficiencies in their daily living.  Usually they need the help of a nurse or aide several times a day to perform daily tasks.

Assisted Living:  An assisted living facility is for a person that needs general help in SOME day to day activities but can do many of their life tasks on their own.  Many people in assisted living communities can walk or ride their wheelchair around the facility with no help, but may need assistance with other things.

The Statistics

The following statistics are compiled from the sites and from, which gathered data from both types of facilities across the United States in 2011.  The statistics and costs shown are based on private rooms at each facility and are subject to change.

Number of Facilities:  Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

There were approximately 38,000 assisted living facilities and 15,600 nursing homes in the United States as of 2011.  Due to the increase of the number of baby boomers and young people entering these facilities this number has increased since this time.

Typical Staff

Assisted Living facilities typically have at least a registered nurse (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPM) on call at all times and usually at the facility during peak hours.   Nursing homes are required to have RNs 8 hours of every day and a LPN available 24/7.   This staffs vary by location, so make sure to check your preferred location to find out what their staff is during a typical day.

Average Age

The average age for a LTC is 86 years old, while at a nursing home it is 79.  These number have surely declined slightly over the years, as more and more people are not only living longer, but the increase of people born during WWII are hitting their senior years.


Costs can vary widely from state to state as the cost of living is different.  States such as Connecticut and Massachusetts boast some of the highest medians, while states in the Midwest and South such as Missouri and Georgia may be several thousand dollars cheaper.  On the average an assisted living facility is a few thousand dollars less monthly than a nursing home, mostly due to the amount of care required by the patient.  Below are a couple states median averages for both types of facilities.

Assisted Living

High- Massachusetts   $5,000 monthly

Low- Georgia   $2,400 monthly

Nursing Home

High- Connecticut $12,000 monthly

Low- Oklahoma $4,400 monthly

Final Thoughts in the Nursing Home vs Assisted Living Debate

One good rule of thumb that we usually go by is to talk to the staff administration before making any decisions and to shop around.  Some facilities are desperate for customers, so they may suggest your facility when it is something that may not be necessary for your loved one.  Look at all the options that each facility has to offer and assess the needs of your loved one and go from there in making this decision.

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