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What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Home Care?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

Assisted living and home care both provide assistance to people who may not be able to live independently due to aging, disease, or disability. One provides care in an institutional setting, while the other offers treatment at home. Costs for assisted living and home care can vary, depending on the kinds of services a client needs, the region, and the length of time in treatment. Each type may be covered through government programs, private insurance, or direct payments from patients and their families.

In assisted living, people receive care in a community setting. They may live in standalone homes, apartments, or rooms in a care facility, depending on the level of care needed. The focus in assisted living is on facilitating independent living while offering discreet assistance with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, cooking, and running errands. Some facilities offer transition care, allowing people to stay where they are as their care needs increase. This can improve quality of life by keeping patients in familiar surroundings and among friends as they need more nursing care.

With home care, patients receive care at home, with care providers living on site or visiting periodically, depending on the needs of the patient. This allows a person to stay in his or her home and community, and may permit him or her to be more active in the neighborhood. There can be more challenges with home care, such as the need to modify living spaces to make them accessible. In remote areas, there may also be concerns about needing to access hospitals and clinics for emergency and routine treatment. This can be a distinct difference between assisted living and home care, as hospital facilities are usually very close to assisted living communities.

Choosing between assisted living and home care requires evaluating the needs of the patient, family, and friends. There is often a desire to stay in the community on the part of the patient, as he or she may want to stay in communication with friends and neighbors. Working with a home care worker may be less expensive than relocating to an assisted living facility and can also provide more flexibility, as the patient sets the schedule and determines the level of services provided. Assisted living facilities tend to have more rules and a stricter schedule; people who want to keep pets, for example, may not be able to do so in assisted living.

Patients considering assisted living and home care may want to consider visiting some assisted living facilities to see what kinds of services they offer and get an idea of the range of accommodations available. Some are highly integrated with the surrounding community and provide support for different levels of life, allowing aging friends to reestablish communities together while retaining independence. Others may be more limited in scope and could feel isolating.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Feb 27, 2014
When a friend and mentor of mine developed Alzheimer's disease, her family hired a home care agency to come into her house and help with cooking. As the disease progressed, the home care workers took on more duties.

Eventually, my friend's family decided that a nursing home/assisted living residence was better for their mother. The in home care was expensive and as my friend's health deteriorated, her children thought she would be safer and better cared for in a place with medical care immediately available.

By Animandel — On Feb 26, 2014

People often ask me whether in home care or an assisted living nursing home is better. There is no right answer to this question. The choice a person or family makes regarding these two choices depends on a long list of considerations.

I agree with this article in that in home care is perfect for some patients because they prefer staying at home and they can do so safely with a little help. On the other hand, patients with dementia may want to stay at home, but when they need 24 hour assistance, staying home may not be affordable or practical for the family.

Finding the right assisted living residence is a process that should be carried out with thought and patience. All of these facilities are similar, but they are all different as well. I have found that the number one consideration should be the staff. Get to know the people who work in the facility. Find out what other patients and their families think of the facility and its staff.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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