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Benefits of Skilled Nursing

Understanding the difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home can help you determine viable care options for your loved one. When your aging loved one is discharged from the hospital, they may be referred to a skilled nursing facility instead of returning home. Understanding the difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home is an important step in determining the best care option for your loved one.

The terms “skilled nursing facility” and “nursing home” are often used interchangeably to describe a residential facility that provides on-site, 24-hour medical care. Some people think the two are one in the same, when in fact they are very different.

A skilled nursing facility is a type of care, while a nursing home is a senior living option. Let’s define both more clearly so you can make an informed decision about your options.

Skilled Nursing Facilities vs. Nursing Homes

The key difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home is the required medical attention and the length of stay. A skilled nursing facility is usually used following a short hospital stay, when the patient requires specific medical services to fully recover. They have specialized staff such as speech-language pathologists, rehabilitation specialists, and audiologists who are not typically staffed in a nursing home. Following a short skilled nursing rehabilitation stay, a patient assessment will be done to decide if the patient can return home. Medicare typically covers short-term stays in SNFs, while private insurance may also provide coverage for limited periods. 

A nursing home, on the other hand, provides permanent custodial care—not medical care. These locations offer certified health professionals, meal preparation, and assistance with non-medical, everyday living tasks such as bathing, grooming, bathroom use, medication monitoring, and more. Nursing homes offer 24-hour care as well as room and board. Many nursing homes also have special wings for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Funding for nursing homes can come from various sources, including Medicaid, private pay, or a combination of both.

FeaturesSkilled Nursing Facility (SNF)Nursing Home
FocusShort-term rehabilitation and recoveryLong-term care
ServicesIntensive medical care, therapy services, and assistance with daily livingAssistance with daily living, medication management, and basic medical care
Length of stayWeeks to monthsLong-term or permanent
FundingMedicare, private insurance (limited period)Medicaid, private pay, or a combination
Table summarizing the key differences between Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes

Benefits of a Skilled Nursing Facility

The services provided at a skilled nursing facility (SNF) are crucial to the recovery and overall well-being of patients. These facilities offer a comprehensive array of benefits designed to support patients through their recovery journey from illnesses, surgeries, or injuries. Here’s a closer look at the key advantages of skilled nursing facilities:

24/7 Healthcare Services

One of the most significant benefits of skilled nursing facilities is the availability of round-the-clock healthcare services. Registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and other medical staff are always on-site to address any medical needs or emergencies that may arise. This continuous presence ensures that patients receive immediate care, monitoring, and medication management at all hours, providing peace of mind for both the patient and their family members.

Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapists

Rehabilitation services are a cornerstone of the care provided in skilled nursing facilities. Patients have access to a team of rehabilitation professionals, including physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists. These specialists work closely with each patient to develop personalized therapy plans aimed at restoring mobility, improving communication abilities, and enhancing daily living skills. Whether recovering from a stroke, surgery, or coping with conditions such as arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, these therapy services play a critical role in helping patients regain independence and improve their quality of life.

Social Interaction

Beyond the medical and therapeutic services, skilled nursing facilities recognize the importance of social interaction in the healing process. They offer a variety of social activities designed to engage patients and encourage connections with others. Activities might include group exercises, arts and crafts, music and entertainment events, and educational classes. These opportunities for social engagement can significantly impact a patient’s mood, outlook, and overall recovery by preventing feelings of isolation and promoting a sense of community and belonging.

Nutritional Support

Proper nutrition is vital for recovery, and skilled nursing facilities provide tailored meal plans designed to meet the dietary needs and preferences of each patient. Nutritionists or dietitians are often involved in meal planning to ensure that patients receive balanced, nutritious meals that support their health and recovery goals.

Personalized Care Plans

Upon admission, each patient is assessed to create a personalized care plan that addresses their specific health conditions, rehabilitation needs, and personal goals. This plan is regularly reviewed and adjusted as needed to reflect the patient’s progress and changing needs, ensuring that the care provided is always aligned with the patient’s best interests.

Questions to Ask About Skilled Nursing Facilities

It’s important to not make assumptions about your loved one’s care. Be sure to do your research and ask specific questions about each care facility, specifically regarding certifications and regulations. When choosing a skilled nursing facility, consider asking these questions:

  • Is the facility accredited and properly licensed?
  • What are the qualifications of the medical and caregiving staff?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio during both day and night shifts?
  • What types of medical care and services are provided?
  • Do you offer specialized care for conditions like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia?
  • What types of rehabilitation services are available on-site?
  • What measures are in place to ensure resident safety and security?
  • Can you provide examples of daily activities and social programs?
  • How are meal plans developed, and can they accommodate special dietary needs?
  • What are your visitation policies, especially considering current health guidelines?
  • What types of room accommodations are available, and can residents personalize their spaces?
  • What are the costs of care and what insurance plans do you accept?
  • How do you handle the transition if a resident’s care needs increase?
  • How is resident and family feedback handled, and what is the process for addressing concerns?
  • Do you provide or coordinate end-of-life care services?

When it comes to senior living, the variety of choices—including the level of care required—can be overwhelming. Understanding the differences in care levels is crucial to ensure your loved ones receive the appropriate support they need. This is where a thorough needs assessment becomes invaluable. A comprehensive evaluation of your loved one’s physical health, cognitive abilities, daily living activities, and social preferences helps in determining the most suitable type of senior living option. Whether it’s independent living, assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing, a needs assessment ensures that the chosen environment matches your loved one’s current and future care requirements, providing peace of mind that they are in good hands.


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