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Nursing Home Care and Services: What Is a Nursing Home?

Angelike Gaunt
By Angelike GauntSeptember 18, 2020
Elderly woman with rosy cheeks receiving assistance from a nurse to drink a glass of water.

Nursing homes, sometimes called skilled nursing facilities, provide housing and 24-hour medical and personal care to older adults who need skilled nursing care, but don’t require hospitalization. Nursing homes offer short-term stays and rehabilitation programs for seniors after a hospital discharge and long-term care for those with serious chronic health problems.

Elderly adults who need long-term care at a nursing home often have debilitating physical or mental problems that require a higher level of medical care than what is offered at assisted living facilities. These seniors require round-the-clock supervision and care for conditions that prevent them from living independently.

What services do nursing homes provide?

Nursing homes offer a wide range of services to ensure the health and safety of seniors, through personal, medical, and rehab care services.

Personal care at nursing homes

Personal care means nonmedical care and assistance with activities of daily living. Personal care services may include:

  • Help with bathing, toileting, and dressing
  • Assistance with mobility and transferring
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Meals and dietary counseling
  • Recreational activities

Skilled nursing care at nursing homes

Skilled nursing care is medical care provided by licensed health professionals, such as a registered nurse or a physical therapist. Skilled nursing care may include the following services:

  • Wound care
  • Injections
  • Catheter care
  • Dialysis

Rehabilitation services at nursing homes

Nursing homes provide different types of rehab programs and therapies to help seniors regain mobility, strength, and function until they can return to normal activities. Rehabilitation services may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Social and psychological services
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation

Nursing home services: short- and long-term care

Nursing homes offer short- and long-term care for seniors. The type of care your senior loved one receives will depend on their medical needs and eligibility. Skilled nursing care or rehabilitation services are temporary services prescribed by a doctor or hospital staff. Nursing home costs vary depending on the facility and services provided, but if your family member needs short-term skilled nursing or rehab care, they may qualify for full or partial Medicare coverage.

Short-term stays at a nursing home can help seniors recover from an illness, injury, or surgery. These temporary residents receive different types of therapies, nursing care, and assistance with daily activities based on their medical needs. Once they recover or meet their health goals, as established by the doctor, they return home.

Long-term residential care at nursing homes is for seniors who have serious chronic conditions, terminal illnesses, or advanced cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. These residents may be bedridden or use a wheelchair, and require 24-hour supervision and medical assistance.

Long-term nursing care residents typically receive personal and medical care, meals, laundry and housekeeping services, assistance with medication management, and access to recreational activities.

Medicare doesn’t cover long-term or permanent nursing home stays, but your loved one may be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

Is a nursing home right for my loved one? Explore senior care options

Senior living and care has evolved over the years, and nursing homes are no longer the only senior care option available. In fact, a recent A Place for Mom (APFM) survey indicates that 89 out of 100 families who contacted APFM seeking nursing home care realized a nursing home wasn’t the right option for their loved one.

If you’re not sure a nursing home is the best choice for your aging family member, talk to one of our Senior Living Advisors. They can recommend different kinds of senior living options for your family member based on personal needs and preferences for free.

Angelike Gaunt
Angelike Gaunt

Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.

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