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Nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities, provide nursing care and long-term housing for seniors. Elderly nursing home residents often have significant physical or mental health conditions that require long-term, 24-hour nursing and personal care. These nursing 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 who are recovering from an illness or accident regain mobility, strength, and function until they can return to normal activities.
Many people mistakenly use the “nursing home” as a catchall term for any type of senior living community, but that’s not the case. Independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes each offer a very specific type of care to meet seniors’ needs. Unlike the others, nursing homes offer access to skilled nursing care services.
Read on to learn more about how nursing homes are defined and how they stand apart from other senior care types.
Nursing homes offer residential care for seniors who need either temporary or long-term 24-hour skilled nursing. Nursing homes offer long-term care for seniors who have serious chronic or progressive illnesses, severe cognitive impairment, or terminal diseases, and they provide short-term care for seniors in need of rehabilitative services as they recover from surgery, an injury, an illness, or a hospital stay.
Both long-term and short-term care at nursing home facilities can include the following:
The rehabilitative services available at a nursing home may include the following:
Residents also have access to a wide variety of medical and nursing care services provided by licensed health care professionals, like the following:
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Nursing homes are residential facilities that offer a higher level of daily medical oversight, plus skilled nursing care that’s not available in other types of senior living facilities. While many residential senior care communities offer help with personal care and daily activities, nursing homes provide advanced on-site skilled nursing services. This type of care is ideal 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
*Note: some services may vary depending on a state’s specific regulations
Nursing homes and assisted living differ in important ways, although some people may think they are synonymous. Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer senior 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 support and social engagement.
It’s important to note that some assisted living facilities may offer rehabilitative therapies, like that of a nursing facility, to their existing residents. However, these services typically aren’t offered initially, as new residents are screened to make sure they’re in a healthy, stable condition before moving in. Nursing services are typically only offered after a person establishes residence in a community and grows to need such care after an illness, injury, surgery, or hospital stay.
Both nursing homes and memory care facilities offer 24-hour care and supervision, assistance with activities of daily living, and prepared meals. Nursing home care services cater exclusively to people with severe health problems, while memory care specializes in caring for people with memory loss. Memory care facilities might offer nursing or rehabilitative services as well, sometimes even having on-site skilled nursing units.
There are many differences between nursing homes and memory care:
Home care offers care for seniors who wish to age in place in their home. It can be full-time or part-time as support or respite for family caregivers. Home care aides are trained in a variety of senior care services. They can help with personal care, light housekeeping, cooking, pet care, transportation, and much more.
Home health is different from home care and must be prescribed by a physician. Unlike home health care, general home care doesn’t include the skilled nursing care provided at nursing homes. However, it’s possible to combine home care with home health care to receive skilled nursing care at home from licensed health care professionals. Home health services can provide long-term care or 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 in need of 24-hour care or more intensive therapies. Home care costs may also be too much for seniors who need round-the-clock care, as fees are charged by the hour. Plus, caring for an aging loved one at home may 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
Whether your loved one will benefit from a nursing home largely depends on their needs. 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 home services are for seniors in need of skilled nursing or rehab care, seniors who are seriously ill, or seniors recovering from injury or illness. Nursing home residents often need a higher level of care than what assisted living facilities offer or what can be provided at home.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 all the senior care options may be the most caring thing to do.
Seniors in need of nursing home care may be severely ill, incontinent, bedridden, or on a feeding tube. They typically require 24-hour specialized care from licensed health care professionals, such as a registered nurse. It might be time for a nursing home if your aging loved one requires the following:
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:
Before you determine 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 determines a senior’s need by performing a physical examination and obtaining a medical history. The physician must document any medical needs for skilled nursing or rehabilitative services, as well as the need for assistance with daily activities and continuous supervision, or care for serious cognitive impairment. The evaluation also helps determine which medications and treatments should be provided 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 in. Seniors 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
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 $7,908 for a semi-private room and $9,034 for a private room, according to Genworth’s most recent Cost of Care Survey. Nursing home costs vary greatly by state. For instance, seniors living in East Coast states, Hawaii, or Alaska will pay more for nursing home care than those living in the Midwestern or Southern states.
The cost of nursing home care is high because these facilities are staffed with medical professionals that provide 24-hour oversight and a level of care that is higher than at other types of senior living. Residents at these facilities often have a variety of chronic medical needs and typically require more help with personal care.
Because nursing homes offer a higher level of medical care, the cost of care at nursing homes is significantly higher than costs of other care types. 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 much 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 most recent Cost of Care Survey and A Place for Mom internal data from 2023.
|Care type||Nursing home||Memory care||Assisted living||Home care|
|Monthly median cost|
Sources: Genworth Cost of Care Survey and A Place for Mom internal data from 2023
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 care. 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 and consider these key factors:
Ultimately, there’s no substitute for visiting and experiencing a typical day at the nursing home. 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, if you plan on using your benefits to help cover your care costs there. You can 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.
Take a step-by-step approach to ease anxiety and make the move smoother for your family and your aging loved one.
Elder care is a difficult but important topic that many families ultimately can’t avoid. It’s essential to have regular conversations about senior care before an emergency situation arises. Plan ahead so you and your family have time to think about options and discuss what you need 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’s a good idea to involve them. Set aside dedicated time, without distractions, to discuss needs and potential solutions. It’s 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.
Whether they share a room or have a private space, they’ll want to bring at least some personal items. Personal items like toiletries, clothing, photos and keepsakes, jewelry, and eyeglasses are key. They may also want to bring certain items for entertainment, like books, hobby supplies, and a computer or tablet.
Before you settle on what to take when you’re moving a family member to a nursing home facility, it’s important to understand the space your loved one will be moving into. Before moving day, be sure to ask staff at the facility whether the following items are provided to your loved one:
Before they arrive, make your loved one’s new space feel more like home with familiar items and photos of family and friends. 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:
Given all the options and factors to consider, determining whether a nursing home meets your loved one’s needs may seem like an overwhelming task. Consider reaching out to one of our Senior Living Advisors for guidance. Advisors cannot refer you to a specific nursing home, but they can help you consider your aging relative’s needs, expectations for care, and your financial resources to find the right care option.Back to top
Nursing homes provide short-and long-term care for seniors who have physical or mental health conditions that require 24-hour nursing and personal care.
The score shown is the overall experience rating which is an average of the reviews submitted for those communities. The overall experience rating is a star rating that ranges from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.
Below are the 51 largest cities grouped by their metropolitan area.
Top states for Nursing Homes