Assisted Living vs. Home Care: What’s the Difference?

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The differences between assisted living and home care.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living communities provide housing and care services to active seniors who aren’t able to live independently. Some health care services are also provided on-site. These communities help seniors with activities like bathing, dressing, and eating, but they don’t always provide ongoing skilled nursing care.

Many assisted living communities for seniors offer numerous supportive care options, including the following:

While nursing care services aren’t typically included in assisted living, many communities offer residents the option to work with a third party organization for short-term nursing needs. Some assisted living communities have a skilled nursing unit within the community, making it easy for residents to receive the care they need without moving.


Benefits of assisted living

Many elderly people might prefer to stay at home longer because they fear change, says Michelle Aweshah, a regional manager at A Place for Mom. However, over time, assisted living communities can feel like home, too.

Seniors in assisted living, as well as their loved ones, can look forward to multiple benefits.


Assisted living can provide either short-term or long-term care, depending on a resident’s needs — it doesn’t have to be a permanent decision.

“Some people feel assisted living might be their ‘final place’ and are afraid that they won’t like it once they move,” says Aweshah. “The great news is, in most cases, assisted living communities only require a 30-day notification of a move, even if you signed to stay a year.”

Round-the-clock care

In addition to providing flexibility, assisted living offers care day and night, as needed. The various skills of staff members in assisted living play a pivotal role in supporting the well-being and safety of residents.

“There are aides on staff around the clock to assist with personal care needs,” says Aweshah. “Most communities also have nurses on-site, as well as mobile services for physician appointments, therapy services, and more.”

Social activities and services

“For many, being home may feel independent, but if they’re unable to drive, don’t visit friends as often anymore, or don’t eat as well, this can be very isolating and can lead to depression,” says Aweshah. “Being ‘independent’ can quickly become a detriment to quality and longevity of life.”

Assisted living communities provide planned on- and off-site leisure activities as well as social activities, like happy hours and holiday celebrations, which are all very popular with residents. Additional benefits of assisted living can include a host of helpful amenities and services:

  • Nutritious meals and snacks
  • Beauty salons and barber shops
  • Concierge services
  • Gyms and pools
  • Game rooms
  • Movie theaters
  • Transportation to offsite activities or appointments
  • Business centers
  • Mail services

If you’ve decided assisted living is the right fit, touring can help you compare communities and ask key questions. Use our downloadable resource to keep track of notes, observations, and next steps.


What is home care?

In-home care offers companionship, transportation, and assistance with activities of daily living for seniors living at home. One way to think of it is like in-home assisted living. The level of care a senior receives from an in-home care aide depends on the type of in-home care, in addition to their specific care needs. While standard home care will assist with daily activities and socialization, caregivers may not be licensed to provide nursing services.

Instead, in-home nursing care, also known as home health care, can provide seniors with nursing assistance. Home health care typically involves caring for wounds, administering IVs or injections, or other care that must be administered by a medical professional. In most cases, seniors don’t need this level of care unless they’re recovering from a recent surgery, hospitalization, or live with a complex condition that requires regular medical assistance.

Keep in mind that you can also use a mix of home care and home health care to meet your loved one’s needs.


Benefits of home care

Home care allows seniors to remain in their homes while having regular company and professional care. Aside from enjoying the comfort of familiar surroundings, seniors can benefit from several other aspects of home care.


A major benefit of home care is that it offers one-on-one companionship. Some home care aides will plan in-home activities — such as reading aloud, playing games, or simply sitting and talking — to keep seniors engaged. They can tailor meaningful care services to the unique preferences and needs of your loved one.

Help with activities of daily living

In-home caregivers provide seniors with assistance for personal care tasks as well as helping out around the house. It’s typical for a caregiver to help with:

  • Meal preparation
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation
  • Bathing
  • Bathroom assistance
  • Dressing
  • Grooming

Customizable care

You can decide what in-home caregivers focus on based on your loved one’s needs and lifestyle. It’s easy to customize care services. For example, if your loved one is social, regular transportation to events and activities can be organized as part of the caregiver’s routine. If someone prefers to stay at home and would rather have more help with cooking or cleaning, in-home caregivers can arrange that, as well.

Many home care agencies will note whether they have caregivers experienced in specialized forms of care. This can be helpful for seniors with a progressive illness — such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, or a disability — to receive the customized care they need.

Cost of assisted living vs. in-home care

The median nationwide cost of assisted living is $4,807 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 Cost of Long-Term Care Report. In comparison, the national median cost of in-home care is $30 per hour. For full-time care at home, the cost is $5,720 per month, based on a schedule of 44 hours per week.[01]

At nearly a $1,000 difference per month, finances can definitely play a role in choosing care. However, it’s important to consider what you get with each type of care and how these costs are determined before making a decision.


How are assisted living costs calculated?

Assisted living costs typically include care services, housing, and meals in one monthly fee. The monthly costs can vary greatly depending on factors like apartment size, state of residence, whether your senior loved one chooses to live with a roommate, and their required level of care.


What costs are associated with home care?

Just like with any market, in-home care prices depend on supply and demand. Costs for home care can vary greatly based on your location, the home care agency, staff salaries, and more. Remember that home health care is a little different, because it’s medical care ordered by a physician and may be covered by Medicare or private insurance.

Families and seniors considering home care should evaluate additional, related costs, like utilities, maintenance repairs, and groceries. For an in-depth look at how the cost of home care would compare to assisted living costs in your area, try using A Place for Mom’s senior living cost calculator. You’ll be able to factor in common home expenses like utilities, groceries, and home maintenance when weighing your senior care options.


How can I pay for assisted living and home care?

There are a variety of ways to afford assisted living or home care for your loved one. It’s important to consider that each situation is unique and that not everyone will be eligible for the options presented below. Programs and policies may also change without notice.

Payment options for assisted living may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Public programs. Medicaid, Medicaid waivers, and Medicare may cover some expenses related to assisted living.
  • VA and military benefits. Veterans, veteran spouses, Gold Star families, and other eligible military-connected people may be able to use pensions, disability compensation, and military retirement funds to pay for care.
  • Insurance. Your loved one may be able to have some expenses covered by their private health insurance or their long-term care insurance.
  • Paying out of pocket. Investments, retirement funds, savings, home equity, and more may be used to pay for assisted living expenses.

In some cases, related services and costs for assisted living may be covered while room and board isn’t. Check with the program or policy you wish to use for more information on what they cover and what you’ll be responsible for.

Similar to assisted living payment options, your loved one may be able to pay for home care through the following options:

  • Government-funded initiatives. Medicare, Medicaid, and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) may help with expenses related to in-home care.
  • Veterans benefits. Eligible military-connected individuals may be able to use pensions, disability compensation, or military retirement funds to cover the cost of in-home care. Some expenses may be covered through VA health care or TRICARE coverage.
  • Insurance programs. Your loved one may be able to utilize a long-term care or life insurance policy to cover in-home care expenses.
  • Private pay. Retirement funds, pension funds, savings, and other investments may be used to pay for in-home care.

Assisted living vs. home care: Which is best for my family member?

The general benefits of assisted living and home care.

For seniors who need some daily assistance but remain independent and prefer to age at home, home care may be a good choice. However, if someone requires more than four or five hours of home care a day, assisted living may be the better choice financially.

“It’s a personal decision, and it can be difficult to reach out or ask for any type of assistance,” says Aweshah. “It’s always best to prepare yourself with the most information possible so you can make a choice that’s right for you and your loved one.”

A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors are available to assist with your senior living journey every step of the way. From sending you information about local in-home care agencies to scheduling tours at assisted living communities, they can help answer all of your questions regarding senior living — all at no cost to your family.

Original article by A Place for Mom editor Merritt Whitley.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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