Assisted Living vs. Skilled Nursing

Home caregiver taking care of elderly woman

When it comes to choosing the right care for your aging loved one, two common options often come into consideration: assisted living and skilled nursing. Each offers a unique set of services and care levels tailored to the specific needs of elderly individuals. While they may seem the same, there are many differences between assisted living and skilled nursing. What are the differences? We’re taking a deep dive into them so older adults and their families know exactly what to look for when care is needed and can make an informed decision about which option is the most suitable not just to maintain, but also enhance, their well-being and quality of life.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is for older adults with varying levels of independence who need some additional support in their daily lives. Generally, assisted living communities provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, eating and more. The goal of assisted living is to maximize the independence of each resident to help them live the fullest, most rewarding lifestyle possible. This option allows residents to live a carefree lifestyle while having access to support, home maintenance, great dining, opportunities for socialization, and a range of services and amenities.

What Is Skilled Nursing?

Skilled nursing care is a specialized and comprehensive form of medical care provided to individuals who require ongoing attention due to complex medical conditions. These services are typically administered by registered nurses and licensed healthcare professionals who possess advanced training and expertise.

The goal of skilled nursing is to enhance the patient’s quality of life, promote recovery, and prevent complications, particularly in cases of chronic illnesses, post-surgery recovery, or serious injuries. The care provided is highly individualized, as it addresses the unique needs and medical requirements of each patient, ensuring their well-being and comfort.

The Difference Between Skilled Nursing Facilities vs. Assisted Living Facilities


Assisted living communities are warm, welcoming and homelike communities usually full of engaging amenities, convenient services, and social activities. Residences are often private or semi-private apartments. 

Modern skilled nursing care can be received in similarly homelike environments within communities featuring private or semi-private apartments with engaging lifestyle amenities, but it can also be found in clinical settings where the focus is more on medical care and less on lifestyle and amenities. 


Residents in assisted living communities have access to a range of activities and programs. Events, programs and social opportunities are part of residents’ daily lives. You may also find this in skilled nursing, but more support may be needed to participate. 

Care Services

Assisted living residents receive personalized care and support with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and medication management. Those within a skilled nursing facility also receive support with ADLs; however, additional services like rehabilitative therapy can sometimes be provided to care for more complex needs.

Team Members and Medical Staff

In both assisted living and skilled nursing, care staff are available to meet residents’ needs 24/7. Generally, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses with specialized training are on hand to provide any support needed.

Paying for Care

There are a variety of financial resources and tools that can help offset costs of assisted living and skilled nursing care – often a combination of savings, Social Security benefits, pension payments, and home sales. 

While some assisted living communities will accept Medicaid or long-term care insurance policies, those that do not accept these options will typically work with residents to create a plan that optimizes the amount of care needed while taking into account the resident’s financial situation – just as we do at Cascade Living Group. Skilled nursing can usually be paid for through some insurance providers, Medicare and Medicaid.

In our communities, we partner with a variety of experienced professionals to help secure the financial resources needed for your senior living. If you’d like to explore your options, we would love to help you create a plan that allows you to receive the care you need and enjoy the lifestyle you deserve.

Choosing Between Skilled Nursing or an Assisted Living Community in Your Area

As with all senior living choices, the most impactful option will depend on your or your loved one’s needs, goals, and lifestyle preferences. To help you decide between skilled nursing care and assisted living, evaluate the medical care needed through our self-assessment tool. 

Will you or a loved one need more specialized care, or are you/they mostly independent? If you/they are mostly independent but need extra support with activities of daily living, assisted living might be your best option. If you or they require rehabilitative services for a short period or need long-term care for managing disease or extensive health issues, skilled nursing may be a good fit. 

Discover the Support of Cascade Living Group

At Cascade Living Group, we’re here to help you navigate this journey and explore senior living communities in your area. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to schedule your tour, speak with our staff, and ask questions to ensure the best possible care and comfort for your loved one. The more informed and involved you are in the decision-making process, the better the outcome will be for your cherished senior family member.