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Skilled Nursing Facilities & Nursing Homes

How is Skilled Nursing Different from Assisted Living?

Put simply, assisted living communities are more residential, while nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are more clinical. Assisted living provides a social lifestyle. Nursing homes (or skilled nursing facilities) focus on medical care.

Assisted living communities are a great choice for those in fairly good health. It’s for those who only need a little support with some daily activities. A nursing home or skilled nursing facility is better when 24-hour medical care along with basic services is required. Let’s take a deeper look at skilled nursing care and whom it benefits most.

Skilled Nursing Care vs Nursing Homes

The main distinction: skilled nursing is a service that provides temporary, 24/7 medical assistance for an injury or illness. A medical referral is required. Nursing homes, on the other hand, are residential communities for those who need a higher level of care than assisted living offers. Some nursing homes also offer short-term, skilled nursing care. Take a closer look.

What is Skilled Nursing Care – and Who Benefits?

Skilled nursing care is designed for people who need further recovery after hospitalization for an illness or injury. Whether accommodations and services are offered in a freestanding skilled nursing facility, a nursing home or in a designated area of a Life Plan Community, skilled nursing care provides comprehensive care to those who need around-the-clock care or assistance with most, if not all, activities of daily living. Length of stays are typically for a short period of time, on average 20 to 38 days.

Skilled nursing units are licensed and offer 24/7 medical care by a trained medical staff. Many also provide rehabilitation services, memory support services and other types of specialized care. They’re typically Medicare/Medicaid-certified, and monthly fees include meals, assistance and most medical services.

What is a Nursing Home?

A nursing home—also known as a skilled nursing facility—is a licensed residential facility that offers on-site, ongoing skilled care to those who need assistance and monitoring around the clock. These can be stand-alone facilities or part of a continuum of care at a senior living community.

Nursing homes have come a long way in recent decades, and can maximize quality of life through programs, activities, and social opportunities in a safe space with caring staff. In most cases, nursing homes are licensed for Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement.

For more on the differences between assisted living and nursing homes.

Skilled Nursing Services

In addition to medical services and monitoring provided by a team of therapists, RNs, LPNs and certified nurse aides, skilled nursing care may also include:

  • Private or semiprivate rooms
  • Three meals per day
  • Housekeeping and laundry service
  • Social programs and activities
  • Exercise and physical therapy programs

The Cost of a Skilled Nursing Facility

Costs for skilled nursing vary depending on the length of stay, size of the room, and what region of the country you’re in. The latest Genworth Cost of Care Survey shows that the national average monthly cost for a semiprivate room is $7,148. A private room averages $8,121 per month.

Does Medicare cover skilled nursing facilities? Sort of. Medicare will cover skilled nursing care – but with conditions and stipulations. First, care must be predicated by a hospitalization. Post-hospital care must be provided in a Medicare-approved facility (or by a home healthcare agency) and must occur within 30 days of the hospital stay.

Medicare covers the full cost of medically necessary skilled care for the first 20 days (including a semi-private room – private rooms are paid out-of-pocket – meals, medications, therapies, etc.). After that, patients must pay a co-pay. Medicare coverage stops after 100 days.

Medicaid coverage is available only for services provided in a nursing home licensed by the state as a Medicaid Nursing Facility. Services are paid for only when other payment options are unavailable.
For more on costs and how to pay for senior living

How to Evaluate Your Options