Truth be told, most people don't think about skilled nursing care until an aging parent, spouse or other family member needs more help than a caregiver can provide.
Skilled nursing care facilities, commonly referred to as nursing homes, are licensed healthcare facilities that are inspected and regulated by a state's Department of Health Services.
They offer long- and short-term care for individuals who need rehabilitation services or who suffer from serious or persistent health issues, such as Alzheimer's disease, that are too complicated to be tended to at home or at an assisted living facility.
What to Expect from Skilled Nursing Care
Nursing homes provide custodial and skilled nursing care 24/7. Skilled nursing care involves trained professionals performing services that are needed temporarily due to an injury or illness, including:
- a nurse attending to a post-operative wound or dispensing and monitoring intravenous medications
- a physical therapist working with a resident to rectify strength and balance issues
- a speech therapist assisting a resident in reclaiming their ability to communicate following a stroke
- an occupational therapist helping a resident to become independent again, particularly when it comes to dressing, personal hygiene and eating
A skilled nursing care facility also provides:
- pharmaceutical, laboratory and radiology services
- social and educational activities
- laundry services
- limited transportation
- end-of-life or hospice care
- respite care
Some facilities are specially designed to accommodate seniors suffering from Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, dementia or respiratory ailments. Staff also provide custodial or personal care that focuses on helping residents with activities of daily living, such as:
- personal hygiene
- maneuvering in and out of bed and/or walking
Not all nursing homes offer these services. Families should visit several facilities to find the one best suited to their loved one's needs.
Skilled Nursing Care vs. Assisted Living
Choosing between skilled nursing care and assisted living can be difficult. A skilled nursing care facility may be needed if your family member requires:
- round-the-clock nursing care, particularly if the senior might stray if left unsupervised
- assistance with meals, personal hygiene, medications and portability
- more help than the family or present caregiver can provide or the senior can no longer live alone
Assisted living communities are recommended when the senior does not require much medical care but they do need more assistance than can be provided in their home. Assisted living facilites:
- allow residents to live independently in their own "apartment"
- provide meals, housekeeping and transportation services whether it be to the store, hairdresser/barber or a medical appointment
- have a scheduled calendar of events for residents and their families that includes arts and crafts, current events and field trips
- assist with dressing, personal hygiene and medications
- have a resident doctor and/or registered nurse on staff
Resources for Skilled Nursing Care
For more information on skilled nursing care, visit these websites:
- "A Guide to Nursing Homes" from HelpGuide.org
- "Coping With the Transition" from the American Health Care Association
- Overview on Nursing Homes by Medicare
Find Skilled Nursing Care
If you are trying to find skilled nursing care for a loved one, we can help. Our directory lists thousands of nursing homes nationwide to help you find skilled nursing care near you.
Written by home care expert Mary S. Yamin-Garone.
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