Nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities are medical facilities dedicated to caring for patients with severe or debilitating physical or mental illnesses who are unable to care for themselves.
Unlike assisted living facilities, which offer patients assistance with some or all basic living activities such as bathing, eating, dressing, cooking and housekeeping, nursing homes provide intensive, long-term medical care to seniors with serious health conditions in a fully staffed and monitored facility.
Who Lives in a Nursing Home?
While an increasing population of temporarily ill or disabled patients are using nursing homes for short-term rehabilitation care, a majority of people who permanently reside there are elderly, with almost half aged 85 years or older. Most residents are female, with limited mobility and extreme difficulty performing activities of daily living. They are physically frail and heavily dependent on outside care. Many residents also display behavioral issues such as dementia and a decline in verbal abilities.
What Services Do Nursing Homes Provide?
Most nursing homes are fully staffed with medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants and healthcare aides. The staff work together to provide residents with quality medical care, including physical or speech therapy, pain management and hospice care. Staff are trained to assess health emergencies and will readily refer patients to a nearby hospital to deal with more complex or acute conditions should they happen.
Many nursing homes are stocked with medical equipment traditionally found in hospitals such as X-ray machines, pharmacies and electronic beds. Some homes also have special units designated for providing Alzheimer’s Care or other types of dementia. It is also common for a nursing home to offer rehabilitation services, where a senior may reside for a brief period of time before returning home after a medical operation or procedure.
How Can I Pay For Nursing Home Care?
Because of the complexity and severity of the healthcare needs of many nursing home residents, skilled nursing care can be quite expensive. However, there are a variety of ways to fund these expenses. Some families choose to pay for care using private funds. Some decide to extend health insurance policies from commercial insurance companies that offer long-term care policies. Such policies can help to defray the cost of services. Eligibility and coverage vary widely by plan.
Government assistance is also available to help pay for long-term care administered in nursing homes. Medicare, a government-funded healthcare plan for people 65 years and older, will offer limited reimbursement for short-term stays depending on the circumstances of admission and type of care. Medicaid, a federal and state healthcare plan for people unable to afford their own medical costs, will pick up a majority of the cost of nursing home care for those with limited income and assets.
Written by senior housing writer Jacqui Tom.