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Deciding on the best care option for yourself or a senior loved one involves weighing various factors, including the level of care needed, preferences around independence, and financial considerations. Families often consider two primary options: home care and assisted living (sometimes called personal care). Each option tailors to individual needs but has different features, benefits, and limitations.


Here’s what you need to know about the differences between in-home care and assisted living so you and your loved one can make informed decisions.

What Is Home Care?

In-home care provides seniors with assistance in their own homes, offering services that range from personal support to home health care by a visiting nurse service. Home care and home health care are ideal for seniors who require help with daily activities but want to stay in their familiar environment. Services vary widely based on each family’s needs and the providers’ specializations. Services may include:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) like meal preparation, eating, dressing, grooming, personal hygiene, etc.
  • Medication management
  • Transportation to appointments and errands
  • Companionship (offering respite for caregivers)
  • Light housekeeping
  • Physical wellness and physical therapy activities
  • Certain forms of specialized medical care

In-home care can be customized to meet the individual needs of each senior, making it a flexible option for many families​​.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living communities offer a “home away from home" residential option for seniors who require support with daily activities, but do not need the intensive medical and nursing care provided in a nursing home or skilled care program. They aim to foster independence within a safe environment, with staff available 24/7 to assist residents as needed.


Assisted living or personal care communities typically provide many of the same services as in- home care. However, assisted living programming offers social activities in a community setting, including activities like:

  • Music programs
  • Arts and crafts
  • Movies
  • Games
  • Trips in the wider community
  • Parties and engaging activities

Well-organized, expertly facilitated social engagement greatly benefits senior cognitive and mental health. If you or your loved one is at risk of isolation or boredom in their own home, personal care may be a good choice. 

Key Differences Between Home Care and Assisted Living

Here are some of the essential differences between in-home services and senior living community services.

Level of Care

In-home care can be highly personalized, adapting to the senior's changing needs over time. It ranges from a few hours a week of help with errands and household chores to full-time, live-in care for those with serious health issues. However, this one-on-one care provided around-the-clock can be prohibitively hard to staff, even by the largest home care agencies.  


Assisted living, while also adaptable, generally provides a standard level of care that includes assistance with daily living activities, three meals a day, medication administration, and social programming. Staff are on site 24/7 to respond to needs, but one-on-one care is limited. Choosing assisted living that is part of a larger continuing care retirement community can offer the security of knowing that additional levels of care are available if needed.


The cost of in-home care versus assisted living can vary greatly depending on the level of care needed and the geographic location. In-home care is typically billed by the hour, making it a cost-effective choice for seniors who need only a little assistance.


In contrast, assisted living is usually charged as a monthly fee that covers housing, utilities, meals, and basic services, with additional costs for higher levels of care. While assisted living may appear more expensive upfront, it often includes many services that would entail additional costs in a home care scenario​​.

Lifestyle and Socialization

Assisted living facilities offer the advantage of built-in social networks, with organized activities and communal dining encouraging interaction among residents. This can be particularly beneficial for seniors prone to loneliness or isolation in their own homes. In-home care, while offering the comfort of familiar surroundings, may not provide as many opportunities for socialization among peers, unless facilitated by family members or through community programs.

Independence and Familiarity

For seniors who prioritize independence and the comfort of living in their own home, in-home care is often the preferred choice. This option allows seniors to maintain a sense of normalcy and control over their daily routines. Assisted living, however, provides a balance between independence and assistance, offering private living spaces within a supportive community setting.

Safety and Accessibility

Assisted living facilities are designed with the safety and accessibility needs of seniors in mind, offering features like handrails, emergency call systems, and one-floor living to reduce the risk of falls. In-home care may require modifications to the senior’s home to achieve a similar level of safety and accessibility, which come at an additional cost.


Ultimately, your decision whether to pursue home care or assisted living should involve careful consideration of your or your loved one’s needs and desires, with the goal of enhancing quality of life in their golden years. Be sure to consult with healthcare professionals, do your homework, and visit multiple potential care settings (including nonprofit organizations, which are driven by service-oriented missions rather than profits) to make the most informed choice.

Get Services Tailored to Your Needs With Chapel Pointe

Chapel Pointe is a faith-based continuing care retirement community. We commit each day to serving and enhancing the quality of life for people aged 62+ in Central Pennsylvania.


In addition to other living and service options, we offer personal care and home care for our residents in independent living. We’re honored that our greater community sees the servant-heart of our nonprofit organization and consistently selects Chapel Pointe as “The Best of Cumberland County.”


Contact us to learn more about home care, personal care, and other Chapel Pointe services that can help you live your best life!


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