There are many different senior care options available today and deciding which one is best for yourself or a loved one can be a challenge. One of the most common and familiar senior care options available are nursing homes. While many seniors and their families may assume that there is only one type of nursing care, there are actually two very distinct and important types. The first is traditional nursing home care and the other is skilled nursing home care.
While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually two very different types of care. It is important that seniors, family members, and caregivers who may be considering types of care understand that there is a difference between skilled nursing and nursing home care.
Medicare Coverage For Skilled Nursing Facilities
One of the most important differences between skilled nursing and nursing home care is that skilled nursing facilities are covered by Medicare for a short period of time. Traditional nursing homes are not covered by Medicare.
Skilled nursing facilities are regulated by the Department of Health but nursing homes generally are not. They also have more regulatory requirements that they must meet. This includes having a transfer agreement in place with local hospitals in case their patients require emergency care or rehab. For this reason, skilled nursing facilities are ideal for patients who are doing short term rehabilitation or who are recovering from a serious illness or injury.
Medicare will certify that such facilities meet these qualifications and ensure that they have the staff necessary to provide patients with the care they need. Many times, this includes more intensive nursing care or help with different types of rehab as well as other basic health care services.
Types of care typically offered at skilled nursing facilities include physical therapy, injections, and IV care. Skilled nursing care is administered by trained professionals, as opposed to traditional nursing home care which can be administered by people with less training. For example, a senior living in a skilled nursing facility can receive physical therapy as part of their care regimen. An un-trained person providing general care in a nursing home would be unable to provide patients with physical therapy services.
Medicare covers skilled care services that are needed daily for up to 100 days. Some seniors may need to stay longer, but the cost will generally be out-of-pocket.
Typically, seniors will stay in a skilled care facility until they can recover and be moved to a traditional nursing home. It is often a stop for patients coming from the hospital before moving to a more long-term nursing home facility.
Who Provides Care at Skilled Nursing Facilities?
One of the other ways in which skilled nursing facilities differ from traditional nursing homes comes with the staff that service these institutions. Typically, staff members at skilled nursing facilities include the following types of professionals:
- Registered nurses
- Licensed practical nurses
- Speech/Language pathologists
- Licensed vocational nurses
- Medical directors
These are professionals that typically aren't found in nursing homes, but that are available to most skilled nursing patients. In a skilled nursing facility, these professionals can help seniors recover in a comfortable environment so they can leave the hospital and start getting the rehabilitation they need.
What About Traditional Nursing Homes?
While skilled nursing care can provide a very specific type of service for certain seniors, it doesn't mean that every senior needs such a facility. Seniors who go to traditional nursing homes will still get great care, just not the same medically-focused care that is available in skilled nursing facilities.
Unlike skilled nursing care, there is typically no limit to how long seniors can stay in a nursing home. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover nursing homes, so seniors will not get financial assistance when they are admitted. It is important to note that these nursing homes are also not covered or certified by the government like skilled care facilities are. However, in some states these facilities are still licensed and inspected by state agencies such as the Department of Health or the Department of Social Services.
Nursing homes are a permanent residence for seniors who cannot live at home, while a skilled nursing situation is typically temporary. Those living in nursing homes typically require daily assistance. This is typically defined as custodial care, or care that can be offered by a non-medical professional.
Seniors who need general help that they can provide one their own can get such care at a nursing home. Examples of general care are using oxygen, taking care of catheters, using eye drops, taking vitamins, stretching, applying creams, and taking oral medications.
A traditional nursing home will be run by a private or charitable organization and while they can help provide care for daily activities, they do not offer the same wide menu of services that skilled nursing care facilities do.
These nursing homes can still provide seniors with a great deal of care, even though they are not medically-oriented. This includes services such as:
- Helping seniors with grooming and bathing
- Assisting seniors with their daily care needs
- Providing general care each and every day, including help with getting in and out of bed
- Offering light housekeeping services to keep the seniors bed or room neat and tidy
- Providing meal services
- Help with dressing each and every day
- Assisting seniors with using the bathroom and getting around the facility
- Providing transportation services to seniors when they need to leave the community
Nursing home care provides adults who need assistance with day-to-day care in order to keep them safe and healthy. Most nursing homes will provide customized care depending on the needs of the individual resident.