The Arbor Company Senior Living Blog

Nursing Home Alternatives: What is Skilled Nursing?

Jan 13, 2016 2:15:00 PM / Shirley Paulk Shirley Paulk

Nursing Home Alternatives What is Skilled Nursing?

Any discussion of nursing home alternatives needs to begin with a clear understanding of what we mean when we refer to a nursing home. While the term “nursing home” is antiquated and not used at all throughout the senior living industry any longer, many people outside of senior care still think of any long-term senior housing as a nursing home. Nowadays, we are lucky enough to have a vast array of senior living options that range from in-home, non-medical assistance to 24-hour care within skilled nursing communities. Having a variety of options to choose from means that no senior housing community needs to be one-size-fits-all; instead, seniors can now choose a living situation that best suits their medical needs, personal preferences, and individual situations.

If you or your loved one require short-term or long-term care with extensive access to medical professionals and clinicians, a skilled nursing community might be for you. While skilled nursing communities do share the below characteristics, it is still important for you to tour a few communities before you make your housing decision. Every community has a different “feel” and culture - a tour will help you determine if your loved one will enjoy her time there.

The Care

Skilled nursing communities are set apart from other housing alternatives simply because of the access to medical care. All skilled nursing communities feature 24 hour nursing care that is provided by Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), with other care provided by certified nursing assistants (CNA).

Because of the number of nurses available to give care and coordinate with doctors, skilled nursing communities are able to handle medically complex cases that range from recent surgeries to pain management issues. In fact, a skilled nursing facility is often the next step after a prolonged hospital stay a place to receive continuous medical care and supervision before heading home.

Beyond access to medical professionals, skilled nursing communities often feature in-patient therapy services. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists are available to work on getting residents up and moving towards their goals as soon as the day after admission. These therapists coordinate care for the resident, along with a multidisciplinary team that includes nursing, dining, activities, and social work.

The Extras

In addition to extensive medical care and monitoring, residents in a skilled nursing facility are also privy to other lifestyle and health amenities. Daily activities may be available for residents and visiting family members to attend, planned by a certified activity professional or recreation therapist. These activities offer socialization opportunities as well as the chance to attend trips outside of the facility. Residents also receive three meals per day that are nutritious and served under the guidance of a registered dietician. Specialized diets support conditions from diabetes to swallowing difficulties that are the result of a stroke.

The Cost

Skilled nursing facilities are available for residents to stay long-term or short-term. A short-term resident is usually coming to build strength and endurance prior to returning home after a hospital stay or surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement. In these cases, costs are most often covered by Medicare.

However, skilled nursing facilities are not just for short-term convalescence. Residents with complex medical needs, or the need for around the clock monitoring or safety, choose to stay at skilled nursing facilities for an extended period. In these cases, Medicare benefits often do not cover the services and residents must pay out-of-pocket, with supplemental insurance benefits, or with Medicaid.

Advanced Care for Advanced Needs

Skilled nursing facilities offer a wonderful alternative to returning home before a resident is strong enough to do so. There are plenty of benefits to skilled nursing facilities, and your loved one may need the extra medical assistance.  Typically, however, skilled nursing is best for those who have serious or advanced medical needs and is unlikely to be the ideal choice for someone who does not require full-time skilled care.

Options and Resources for Families

While many people think that skilled nursing is the only option available to them, this is often a misconception. In some cases, short-term “respite” care at an assisted living community can provide the break that a family caregiver needs to be able to continue looking after their parent or loved one at home. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, an assisted living community that provides memory care is likely to be a better option than skilled nursing. And for those who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) but do not need to be under the care of a nurse or doctor, an assisted living community can provide much of the same help as a skilled nursing community in a more homelike, less institutional environment.

Interested in learning more about senior assisted living or memory care in your area? Contact us now to request more information about our premium senior independent living communities.

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Topics: Senior Living Options, Nursing Home Alternatives

Shirley Paulk

Shirley Paulk

Shirley has more than 25 of years experience in health care, including long term care facility administration. Prior to joining The Arbor Company more than ten years ago, she served in key marketing positions for national rehabilitation services and senior living companies.

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