Nursing homes, sometimes called skilled nursing facilities, provide nursing care and long-term housing for seniors. Elderly adults who need long-term care at a nursing home facility often have significant physical or mental health conditions that require 24-hour nursing and personal care. These facilities offer the highest level of care for seniors who need medical care, but don’t require hospitalization.
Nursing homes also provide short-term, rehabilitative care after a hospital discharge. Rehabilitation programs at nursing home facilities help seniors recovering from an illness or accident regain mobility, strength, and function until they can return to normal activities.
Nursing homes offer residential, long-term care for seniors who have serious chronic or progressive illnesses, severe cognitive impairment, or terminal diseases. Long-term care at nursing home facilities includes assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing and toileting, prepared meals, medication management, and access to social activities.
Nursing home long-term residents also have access to medical and nursing care provided by licensed health care professionals. This type of care may include IV therapy, wound care, catheter care, injections, heart rate and blood pressure monitoring, and other health services.
Many nursing homes offer short-term housing and skilled nursing care for seniors recovering from surgery, injury, or illness after a hospital stay. These temporary residents receive skilled nursing care and rehabilitation services, along with help with personal care, meals, and medication management.
Nursing home rehabilitation services may include:
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Nursing homes offer a high level of medical and skilled nursing care that is not available in other types of senior living facilities. While many senior living and care communities may offer help with personal care and daily activities, only nursing homes provide residential and skilled nursing care for seniors who need specialized medical care throughout the day, but don’t need to be hospitalized.
|Services||Nursing Homes||Memory Care||Assisted Living||Home Care|
|24-hour care and supervision|
|Skilled nursing care|
|Palliative and hospice care|
|Specialized care for patients with memory loss|
|Secured entrances and exits to prevent wandering|
|Unique facility layout and design to reduce confusion|
|Help with hygiene and personal care|
Housekeeping and laundry services
Exercise and wellness classes
Transportation to appointments
Nursing homes and assisted living differ in important ways, although some people may think of these two types of senior care facilities as synonymous. Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer housing, meal services, and help with personal care. However, seniors in assisted living communities are generally active and relatively independent, although they may need help with certain daily tasks. Nursing home residents typically have debilitating health problems or serious chronic conditions that require 24-hour care, skilled nursing services, or rehab therapies.
Like assisted living, nursing homes also offer social activities for residents, although options may be more limited than in assisted living facilities. This is because nursing homes often focus on medical care, while assisted living communities aim to improve quality of life through personal care and social engagement.
Both nursing homes and memory care facilities offer 24-hour care and supervision, assistance with activities of daily living, and prepared meals. However, nursing home services cater to people with a variety of severe health problems, while memory care specializes in caring for people with memory loss.
There are other differences between nursing homes and memory care. Memory care doesn’t provide skilled nursing services like nursing homes often do. And while nursing homes usually focus on residents’ physical and mental health, memory care aims to enhance the quality of life for people who have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia through specialized care and activities in a secure environment designed to reduce confusion and prevent wandering.
Home care offers care for seniors who wish to age in place and provides support and respite for caregivers. Home care aides are trained in senior care and can help with personal care, light housekeeping, cooking, transportation, and more.
Home care doesn’t offer the skilled nursing care provided at nursing homes. However, it’s possible to combine home care with home health to receive skilled nursing care at home from licensed health care professionals. Home health is different from home care and must be prescribed by a physician. Home health services include short-term rehab therapies, nursing care, wound care, injections, and more.
Even when combined with home health, home care may not be sufficient for seniors who need 24-hour care or for those who need more intensive therapies. Home care costs may also be prohibitive to seniors who need round-the-clock care, as fees are charged by the hour and based on the level of care needed. Plus, caring for an aging loved one at home may also require difficult or costly modifications to make the home safe and accessible, including additions such as ramps, wider doorways, chair lifts, and walk-in showers.Back to top
Many people use the term “nursing home” to describe all types of senior living. However, senior living has greatly evolved over the years, and nursing homes are no longer the only senior care option. Seniors and families can choose from a wide variety of senior care services and senior living communities to find the best fit for their needs, lifestyle, and budget.
Nursing homes are for seniors who are seriously ill or have a severe health problem, or for those who are recovering from injury or illness and need short-term skilled nursing or rehab care. Nursing home residents often need a higher level of care than what assisted living facilities offer.
Common health conditions among elderly adults in nursing homes include Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seniors in nursing homes may be severely incontinent, bedridden, or on a feeding tube, and typically require 24-hour specialized care from a licensed health care professional, such as a registered nurse or physical therapist.
A nursing home facility may be the right choice for your aging loved one if they:
Before determining whether a nursing home is the right choice for your aging loved one, it’s important to understand the requirements for admission at a nursing home facility. Eligibility for nursing home care varies by state. This means a senior may qualify for nursing home care in Kansas, but not in New York. It’s important to contact your Medicaid or government county agency to understand your state’s requirements.
In general, seniors who qualify for nursing home care are severely debilitated or have serious chronic conditions. A physician must document any medical needs for skilled nursing or rehabilitative services, as well the need for assistance with daily activities and continuous supervision, or care for serious cognitive impairment.
A physician determines need by performing a physical examination and obtaining a medical history. Other medical tests may be required. The evaluation also helps determine which medications and treatments will be provided to a senior who qualifies for care at a nursing home facility.
Elderly adults who are eligible for nursing home care will need to fill out state and admission forms before moving. Those who don’t qualify for a nursing home but need help with personal care or medication management may find an assisted living facility or memory care community good senior care options instead.Back to top
For many families, moving a family member to a nursing home may be a difficult decision. However, when it’s no longer safe for a senior loved one to live on their own, considering senior care options may be the most caring thing to do. It may be time for a nursing home if your senior loved one:
Seniors who are recovering from injury or illness may also benefit from rehabilitative care at a skilled nursing facility for a short period of time after being discharged from a hospital. However, skilled nursing facilities are not the only option for those who need rehab. There are several factors to consider when choosing between a skilled nursing facility and a rehab center, including the length and intensity of the rehab program, access to specialists, costs, and insurance coverage. In some cases, it may also be possible to receive rehabilitation care at home or at an assisted living community. It’s important to discuss rehabilitation goals with a doctor to choose the best option for your loved one.
In addition to thinking about your loved one’s needs, consider your own well-being when assessing whether it’s time to move your family member to a nursing home:
Nursing home costs depend on certain factors, including location and the level of care your loved one needs. The median monthly cost of nursing home care in the U.S. is about $7,989 for a semi-private room and $9,086 for a private room, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care survey.
The cost of nursing home care is high because residents at these facilities often have a variety of chronic medical needs and typically require more help with personal care. The level of care provided at nursing homes is also higher than what other senior living communities offer, with services ranging from dialysis to wound care, injections, and more.
Nursing home costs vary greatly by state. Seniors living in East Coast states, Hawaii, or Alaska will pay more for nursing home care than those living in the Midwest or Southern states.
Typically, nursing home costs will cover a semi-private or private room, meals, skilled nursing care, rehab services as prescribed by a physician, and recreational activities offered at the facility.
Because nursing homes offer a higher level of care, the cost of care at nursing homes is significantly higher than assisted living and home care costs. And although increased security, specialized staff, and more one-on-one time for residents add to the cost of memory care, nursing home costs are still higher in comparison.
It’s important to note that the cost of care at senior living facilities varies based on many factors, including location, level of care needed, community amenities, type of room or apartment, and whether accommodations are private or shared. The cost information below is the monthly median cost, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey and 2019 A Place for Mom Move-in Data.
|Care Type||Nursing Home||Memory Care||Assisted Living||Home Care|
|Monthly Median Cost|
Sources: Genworth Cost of Care Survey and 2019 A Place for Mom Move-in Data
Once you’ve determined that your loved one is eligible and a nursing home is the right choice for them, it’s time to understand your options for financing their care. Do some research to be sure you understand all your options. There are many ways to pay for nursing home care, including:
Finding a nursing home for your loved one may feel overwhelming. You may have many different facilities to choose from, so how do you know which one is right? Experts suggest starting with your family member’s prioritized needs.
Ask yourself these questions:
Some key factors to consider include:
Other considerations when choosing a nursing home include cost and facility amenities, recreational activities, meal services, and whether menus cater to dietary preferences and restrictions. It’s also important to notice whether residents seem clean, happy, and well cared for, and how staff keep families informed of their loved one’s health and care.
Ultimately, there’s no substitute for visiting and experiencing a typical day. Touring a facility provides opportunities to see the building, assess cleanliness, witness staff interactions with residents, observe meal time, and talk to other residents.
As you tour different facilities, be sure to ask whether the nursing home you’re visiting is Medicare or Medicaid certified and licensed. You may also check the facility’s rating on the Medicare website.Back to top
Moving a parent to a nursing home can be an emotional and sometimes stressful experience. You may feel guilty or anxious about the move, and wonder whether your senior loved one will adapt and receive the care they need. Your family may not agree with your decision, or you may be struggling with how to talk with your parent about moving.
Taking a step-by-step approach can ease anxiety and make the move smoother for your family and your aging loved one.
Elder care is a difficult but important topic that families ultimately can’t avoid. Having regular conversations about senior care before an emergency situation arises is often best. Planning ahead will give you and your family time to think about options and discuss what you need to do to prepare.
However, if your aging parent needs immediate help, it’s time to hold a family meeting. Consider your family dynamics to decide who to include. If your senior loved one is in good mental health, it may be a good idea to involve them.
Set aside dedicated time, without distractions, to discuss their needs and potential solutions. It’s also important to be open to having a series of conversations before your family agrees on the right senior care choice.
If you’re stressed about moving day, plan ahead and consider finding expert assistance to help with this major transition. A senior move manager specializes in helping seniors downsize, relocate, and move. Delegating what can be an emotional task may help reduce tension, prevent family conflicts, and ease the burden on families and caregivers.
Before deciding what to take when moving your family member to a nursing home facility, it’s important to understand the space your loved one will have after they move. Whether they share a room or have a private space, they might want to bring some personal items, such as toiletries, clothing, photos and keepsakes, jewelry, and eyeglasses. They may also want to bring certain items for entertainment, like books, hobby supplies, and a computer or tablet.
Before moving day, also be sure to ask staff at the facility whether:
Make your loved one’s new space feel more like home with familiar items and photos of family and friends before they arrive. Arrange their belongings in a way that reminds them of their previous home, but avoid cluttering the room. Instead, try to create a calming, comfortable space for your loved one.
Before moving day, remember to also:
With so many options and factors to consider, determining whether or not a nursing home meets your loved one’s needs may seem like an overwhelming task. Our Senior Living Advisors can help you consider your aging relative’s needs, your expectations for care, and your financial resources to find the right care for your loved one.Back to top