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

By Merritt WhitleyMarch 15, 2021
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When it’s clear an elderly family member needs daily care, deciding what to do next is often stressful and overwhelming. Assisted living or home care are two common options.

Both choices have benefits. Three out of four adults age 50 and older would rather age at home, according to a national community preferences survey by AARP. Meanwhile, many family members report that while their parent or relative resisted the idea of assisted living, they quickly grew to love their new community.

Learn more about the staff, costs, and services included in assisted living and home care for the elderly to help guide you in your assisted living vs. home care decision.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living facilities provide housing and care services to active seniors who aren’t able to live independently. This type of care combines housing, support services, and health care if needed.

These communities help seniors with activities like bathing, dressing, and eating, but they don’t provide ongoing skilled nursing care.

Many assisted living services for seniors include:

Learn what to look for in a community
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.
Download the assisted living touring checklist >

Benefits of assisted living

Many elderly people want to stay home because they fear change, says Michelle Aweshah, regional sales director at a Place for Mom.

However, over time, assisted living communities can feel like home, too.


Assisted living can provide either short-term or long-term care, depending on your 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.”

Around-the-clock care

In addition to flexibility, assisted living offers care day and night as needed. The varied skills of staff members in assisted living play a pivotal role in ensuring 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 transportation, nutritious foods, games, and social activities for residents, which are very popular with residents.

Additional services and benefits of assisted living include:

  • Beauty salons or barber shops
  • Concierge
  • Gyms
  • Game rooms
  • Movie theaters

What is the cost of assisted living?

Assisted living costs often include care, housing, and meals in one monthly fee. Because of this, it can seem like a much more expensive option than home care. However, assisted living may cost less than aging at home when home care, groceries, transportation, and other costs are combined.

The median monthly cost for a private single bedroom in assisted living is $4,300, according to Genworth’s 2020 Median Cost Data Table. This number can vary greatly depending on factors like apartment size, state of residence, whether or not your senior loved one chooses to live with a roommate, and your family member’s level of care.

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Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

What is home care?

Home care offers companionship, transportation, and daily assistance for seniors living at home. The level of care will vary based on the individual’s need, but it’s important to note that nursing care isn’t included in home care.

Home care aides provide household help and personal care to seniors. Many home care services include helping with:

  • Meal preparation
  • Housekeeping
  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Dressing
  • Grooming

Benefits of home care

Home care allows seniors to remain in their homes while having regular company and professional care.


A major benefit of home care is that it offers one-on-one companionship. Some home care aides will plan in-home activities to keep seniors engaged, such as reading aloud, playing games, or simply sitting and talking.

Help with daily tasks

In-home caregivers can assist with meal preparation, light housekeeping, and help clean and organize as needed.

Customized elder home care

You can decide what in-home caregivers’ focus on based on your loved one’s needs and lifestyle. If your loved one is more social and needs transportation to events, caregivers can organize that regularly. 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. It’s easy to customize care.

What are home care costs?

Just like any market, price depends on supply and demand. Costs for home care can vary greatly based on your location, the home care agency, staff salaries, and more.

The median cost of elder home care in the U.S. was around $4,576 per month in 2020, according to Genworth. Home health is ordered by a physician and is often covered by Medicare or private insurance. Families and seniors considering home care should evaluate additional, related costs, like utilities, maintenance repairs, and groceries.

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

For seniors who need some daily assistance but still feel they have a good quality of life, home care may be a good choice. However, when someone requires more than four or five hours of home care a day, assisted living may be the better choice financially.

Get personalized help to find the best care options for your family

“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 here to assist with your senior living journey every step of the way. From sending resources about in-home care for the elderly to scheduling tours at assisted living communities, they can help answer all of your questions regarding senior living.

Merritt Whitley

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