What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Residential Personal Care Homes?

With many different senior living options available, it can be a little confusing for those who are exploring possibilities for their loved ones. Two options that are easily confused at first glance are assisted living communities and residential care homes.

While every home or community is different, we have broken down the basics of what will generally differentiate residential care homes from assisted living in Atlanta.


  • Size: Generally, an assisted living community is one in which each resident has his or her own apartment, usually a studio or one-bedroom. Additionally, there are community areas such as a dining room, meeting rooms, activity areas, and other spaces. In a residential personal care home, space is usually much smaller — around the size of a large home. While both facilities will have different size extremes, an assisted living community is almost always a larger building or even made up of several buildings.
  • Amenities: The community areas and amenities vary from community to community and home to home. Assisted living communities are usually designed with amenities like  business centers, salons, and therapy gyms. Assisted living is often billed as a true community. A residential care home may not have as many in-home amenities; however, the needs of the residents may be met in other ways. Each home will have different methods of handling mealtimes, medicine, and other needs and wants of the residents. Whether in a large community or smaller residential home, delivering pharmacies and visiting medical professionals are often a common amenity.
  • Activities: Despite the common misunderstanding that Assisted Living facilities are for “inhibited” elderly residents, there are usually many activities available both within the facility and offsite to keep residents active. Larger communities typically staff a full-time activities director to plan the schedule and keep residents engaged. A residential care home will usually have a smaller selection of activities, but for a senior who prefers a quieter lifestyle, this can be an excellent choice.
  • Location: Residential care homes are usually located in a standard home within a suburban neighborhood. To the untrained eye, these homes look like any regular house. Assisted living communities are larger and have the need for more parking and perhaps even a loading dock, so they are often found in commercial or mixed use areas. A convenient location can make it easier for friends and family to visit — since there will often be parking available throughout the day.
  • Cost: The costs of any type of senior care will vary depending on the particular senior’s needed level of care, the location of the facility and other factors. However, as a general rule, an assisted living community will normally have a slightly higher per-month charge than a residential care home, due to the additional amenities that are included.
  • Level of Care: Each community and home is set up differently in regards to the level of care.  Larger communities can hold either a personal care home or assisted living license. Assisted living licensed communities allow residents to age in place, providing increased care. A residential care home typically provides a higher staff to resident ratio, which allows staff to be more attentive to the resident’s needs. Care staff are likely trained CNA’s or proxy-caregivers. As care needs increase, residential care homes typically rely on outside home health services for nursing care.
  • Number of Residents: A residential personal care home will nearly always have fewer residents than an assisted living community. Residential care homes are typically licensed for up to 8-12 residents, whereas Assisted Living communities can be licensed for over 100. The residents of a personal care home may develop a closer relationship with their caregivers, since they live intimately with the staff and other residents.
  • Other Considerations: A residential care home is often quieter and more homelike, while an assisted living facility has a community-like feel. If an individual likes privacy, they may prefer having a private room and bathroom in an assisted living community rather than having to share communal areas in a residential care home.


At the end of the day, it often comes down to what feels right to the senior who will be living there. It is important to realize that when it comes to senior living options, what works well for one family may not be the right solution for another. That is why taking the time to research every possibility is important.

Instead of relying on outdated information you find online or unreliable information you hear from others, why not work with an expert? The CareChoice team can help you through the process of finding the ideal spot for your mom or dad and even help when it comes time to sit down for that awkward conversation. Best of all, our service is free!

Give us a call at (404) 402-1499 or contact us online at ourcarechoice.com to learn more about senior care and assisted living in Atlanta.