Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care: What’s the difference?

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If the time has come to look for some outside help for your aging parent, assisted living is likely one of the options you’ve considered. But there can be some confusion when it comes to what exactly assisted living provides versus other care options

The term is often interchanged with nursing homes, but assisted living services are actually much closer to what an in-home caregiver provides. Most assisted living facilities don’t offer care from medical professionals as nursing homes do. Much like in-home care, assisted living staff offers support with the activities of daily living like meal preparation, personal care, and transportation. Both in-home caregivers and assisted living facilities help provide a safe environment and are there to assist in case of a medical emergency.

While they are similar in the type of care they can offer, there are some crucial differences to know that could impact your decision. In this article, we’ll outline 6 ways in which assisted living differs from in-home care so you can make an educated decision.

The transition/life change 

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two care options is where the care is taking place and the changes that come with it. Either way, your parent or loved one will need to adjust to having some help. But it’s a much bigger adjustment to completely move from one place to another (as is the case with assisted living), especially if it’s from a home your parent has lived in a long time. This process often involves downsizing and getting rid of possessions, which can add to the stress and anxiety your parent feels. You as the family caregiver will likely have to lead the charge, which means added stresses for you as well. 

With in-home care, your loved one can adjust to the changes in their independence and freedom slowly, rather than all at once. 

Attentiveness & personalization

While assisted living facilities offer staffing 24/7, the ratio of staff to residents is much higher than receiving 1:1 care from a professional in-home caregiver. The ratio in assisted living can range from 1:4 up to 1:8 or even higher depending on staffing levels. This means your parent or loved one may have to wait for help, and the staff member that does help may not be familiar with their specific situation. And if the facility is short-staffed for some reason, care can become inconsistent. 

In fact, some assisted living residents end up bringing in a professional caregiver to help supplement the care they receive. If that’s the case, costs can go up considerably. 

Freedom and independence 

Obviously, if your loved one stays in their home, they’re able to do whatever they please. That might not be the case with assisted living. Most (if not all) of these facilities have rules that must be followed, and if they’re not, it may result in removal from the facility. 

Another restriction is the space your loved one will occupy in the facility. While some offer up to full 3-bedroom apartments, oftentimes residents live in large rooms or studio-like apartments that don’t have full (or any) kitchen space. So if your parent enjoys cooking or baking, they may not able to continue doing so depending on the type of living space. There may also be other activity limitations in moving from a larger home down to a room or small apartment. 


One of the biggest factors that impact what type of care makes the most sense is cost. And while it may seem that on the surface assisted living is the more affordable option, it really depends on how much help your parent needs. 

Assisted living is typically a flat-rate situation, whereas in-home care is most often calculated by the hour. So if your loved one needs a good amount of help or needs someone to be there 24/7, the math says that assisted living will cost less. But if they need help on a part-time basis, in-home care will likely be more within budget. 

It’s also important to factor in value – meaning what you get for your money. In-home care offers a more personal and attentive experience and doesn’t require a big life change, and many families find this worth the cost.


When you need help is one of the big factors when deciding between in-home care and an assisted living facility. A CDC survey from a few years ago found that 29% of senior housing communities currently have admissions waiting lists (via U.S. News & World Report). Some of these lists can be a year or longer. 

In-home care service, on the other hand, can be started quickly – sometimes within 24 hours of making the inquiry. Bear in mind, this quick turnaround only happens when you use an in-home care agency. If you choose to go the private route, it can take longer to screen candidates, conduct interviews, and perform background checks. 

Ease of peer socialization and activities 

Staying in the home is a priority for many seniors, but there is an advantage to being in a community with your peers and planned activities – convenience! An in-home caregiver can provide transportation to and from activities and also act as a companion. So for those who do want to remain in their homes, it’s a viable option. 

However, assisted living facilities offer a variety of planned activities on site, which can be much more convenient. And if your parent or loved one likes to make new friends and be around their peer group, assisted living is an easier way to socialize without having a car trip.


As with most decisions, there are pros and cons, and it really depends on your situation. One thing to consider is starting out with in-home care and see how it goes. An in-home caregiver can provide much of the same care as your parent would get in assisted living, but without the jarring transition that comes with it. And since it’s easier to begin right away and doesn’t require a long-term commitment, it can be a great bridge between aging in place and assisted living. 

Ready to learn more about in-home care? We offer a complimentary discovery call, assessment, and home inspection to help determine if a caregiver is right for you. Book a time to talk here!


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