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What is Assisted Living?

Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

It is a common misconception that nursing homes and assisted living communities are one in the same. In fact, if you’re just starting your search into long-term care options, you’ll likely come across quite a few unfamiliar phrases that seem similar but have different meanings. Aside from assisted living and nursing homes, here is a list of the most common names for long-term care options: 

SNF – Skilled Nursing Facility
B/C – Board & Care
RCFE – Residential Care Facility for the Elderly
CCRC – Continuing Care Retirement Community

A nursing home, or a skilled nursing facility, is a medical facility that houses its patients for long-term or short-term stays, depending on the need. While assisted living communities might have a resident nurse on-call, patients who are appropriate for skilled nursing facilities usually require a higher level of care with round-the-clock nursing staff. Skilled nursing facilities feel much like hospitals, whereas assisted living communities have a home-like quality. 

A typical assisted living resident requires support with at least one aspect of daily life, but in general, they still live a quality life full of social interaction and companionship. While a nursing home resident is more likely someone in the process of recovery and rehabilitation following a recent hospital stay or someone in need of considerably more physical assistance and overall health care. But remember: assisted living communities can also cater to more specific demographics such as those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as physical and developmental disabilities, and other conditions or needs which require 24-hour supervision and aid.

Assisted Living Cost

Assisted living is a great option for those who need help with the activities of daily living, and are interested in living a social, community-based lifestyle, but the real question you’re probably asking is, “How much is this going to cost?” Unfortunately, this clear-cut question doesn’t come with a definitive answer. There are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of your personalized assisted living experience.

  1. Where Do You Live? – The cost of an assisted living facility isn’t going to be the same in Los Angeles as it is in Topeka, Kansas. The cost of living in general tends to have a similar effect on assisted living communities.

  2. What Kind of Living Situation Are You Interested In? – Just like any house or apartment, the cost is going to differ between a studio apartment, a one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc. Location within the facility can affect the cost as well.

  3. How Much Assistance Do You Require Throughout The Day? – Do you need help getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, or eating meals? How about remembering to take or receiving your medication? Has memory care been discussed? The more assistance you require in a day, the more the cost is likely to be.

  4. General Services – Three meals a day, medication monitoring, housekeeping, laundry, social & recreational activities, transportation, personal assistance if/when needed, and 24-hour emergency care. Often bundled, these services can add up over time.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that assisted living communities are “private pay,” more commonly referred to as “out-of-pocket.” Because assisted living is considered non-medical, Medicare and Medicaid will not cover the cost, and Social Security payments will likely only be able to cover a small amount of these monthly fees.

Many assisted living communities also require a community move-in fee. Whether you choose to pay this fee upfront or prorated on a monthly basis, it can run upwards of $1,000 – $5,000. Oftentimes a portion of this community move-in fee can be tax-deductible, so make sure to bring this up to your accountant or tax professional come tax season. Depending on the facility, you may have the option of selecting a bundled package based on your specific needs. Other communities offer a flat monthly fee, which is considered all-inclusive, and residents pay the same amount each month, based on their required level of care.

The majority of assisted living residents pay out-of-pocket with either personal savings, from long-term care insurance, a pension plan, or with help from their adult children or other family members.

A Breakdown of Assisted Living Residents by Age & Gender

85 Years or Older


75-84 Years Old


65-74 Years Old


65 Years or Younger


Female Residents


Male Residents


Assisted living encompases a variety of terms, all of which offer similar services and housing scenarios, including traditional senior communities, retirement communities, or independent living communities. Some locations offer both to be split with one half functioning as an assisted living facility, while the other remains an independent living facility. This situation works well for those interested in independent living, because in the event of a change in health, residents can simply move over to the assisted living side and continue to age in place without the effort and stress that comes with moving.

At assisted living communities, residents can expect a sophisticated residential environment that provides personal care services, social activities, health care services, and 24-hour supervision & assistance if needed. Assisted living is a wonderful and dignified way of life for those in the midst of their late-life chapters. 

Residents and their loved ones can rest assured knowing independence and safety are maintained along with a certain quality of life and social involvement. Most assisted living communities offer a few different types of living spaces, so whether you’re interested in your own room, an apartment, or sharing space with a roommate, there are different options based on price point and preference.

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