Skilled nursing care is complex, high-level medical care or interventions directly supervised by a licensed or certified medical professional. These medical professionals typically include a registered nurse (RN), physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist. Skilled nursing offers different levels of care and can take place in a hospital, rehabilitation center, skilled nursing facility, or at an individual’s home.

Examples of skilled care can include wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, IV therapy or maintenance, injections, or specific types of complex disease management. It’s common to need skilled nursing care or interventions when recovering in the hospital after a surgery or procedure, as well as when building strength to return home.

Skilled nursing care does not include services that a certified nursing assistant (CNA) would provide, or tasks that a caregiver would provide. For example, assistance with daily hygiene activities, such as showering or dressing, would not be considered skilled nursing care.

Skilled Nursing Care in Assisted Living Facilities

When you hear about skilled nursing care, you probably think it happens only in hospitals. However, skilled nursing care can happen in other places, including assisted living facilities. It’s important to note that although assisted living communities can offer quite a bit of support and assistance, an assisted living license issued by their state only allows them to provide care up to a certain point. Skilled nursing care is typically not allowed even in the highest levels of assisted living care.

Though assisted living residents enjoy round-the-clock assistance from caregivers, there are times when they might need more complex medical care or interventions. In these cases, there are a few options. The first is to have home health professionals come to their assisted living apartment and perform the skilled nursing care interventions they need. In this case, the resident does have to pay for these services, but it can be worth it in order to receive advanced care in their apartment.

The other option for seniors in assisted living who need skilled care is to go to a skilled nursing facility. These specialized communities often allow for short-term and long-term stays.

Skilled Nursing Care at Home

Similarly to how an agency can come into a senior’s assisted living apartment to provide skilled care interventions, an agency can also come to the senior’s home. It’s important to find an agency that offers medical care or skilled care services because not all home care agencies do this. Further, it is imperative that the services are prescribed by a physician.

Though you might believe that having a skilled care service in your loved one’s home is too expensive, it’s important to remember that prescribed skilled care services are often covered in part by Medicare or an insurance policy.

Skilled Nursing Facility vs. Nursing Home

Seniors have a variety of options when it comes to senior living, including skilled nursing facilities. Sometimes referred to as SNFs, skilled nursing facilities provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care for the residents who live there. You may have heard SNFs referred to as nursing homes, but the term “nursing home” is antiquated and rarely used anymore within the senior care industry.

Residents of skilled nursing facilities are sometimes short term, moving in to receive skilled care before returning home after a hospital stay or surgery. Skilled care facility residents can also be long-term residents, receiving daily skilled care interventions for complex medical conditions.

Is Skilled Nursing Right for You?

Skilled nursing care is most commonly prescribed after an extended hospital stay, surgery, or procedure. However, you might also need skilled nursing care if you have a complex or chronic condition that requires medical intervention regularly. Your physician will be your guide because they will need to prescribe the skilled nursing care as well as oversee your treatment plan.

Tips for Choosing the Right Rehabilitation or Skilled Nursing Community:

Skilled nursing facilities are highly regulated, highly clinical environments. You can find one that is best suited for your situation by looking for:

  • A community that makes family visits and family involvement convenient
  • A community that works with your preferred physician, hospital system, or medical group
  • A community that comes highly recommended from your physician and others
  • A community that feels comfortable and is clean
  • A community that has adequate staffing ratios and offers the type of care you need
  • A community that features a robust therapy program

Other FAQs

What is considered skilled nursing care?

Skilled nursing care is any care or interventions that require direct oversight from a licensed or certified medical professional such as a registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist.

What does a skilled nurse do?

Registered nurses not only perform skilled care interventions like wound care or IV care, but they also write care plans and oversee those interventions.

Is skilled nursing the same as nursing homes?

The term “nursing home” is no longer used throughout the senior living industry. Skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs, are typically what people think of when they hear the term “nursing home.”

Can you have skilled nursing at home?

You can have skilled nursing care in your home with the right home health services and support. For example, your physical therapist can come into your home and perform exercises as prescribed by your doctor. A nurse can also come in to check wounds, help with pain management, and perform other skilled care tasks as ordered.

How do I find a good skilled nursing facility?

Talk candidly to your physician about their recommendations for a skilled nursing facility near you. It’s also smart to look for a facility that is convenient for family members to visit or participate in care as well as to search for a facility that has excellent ratings from both Medicare as well as the larger community.

Are skilled nursing facilities covered by insurance?

Depending on what types of services you need while in a skilled nursing facility, some of the costs can be covered in part by your insurance.

Are skilled nursing facilities covered by medicare?

As long as the stay meets Medicare requirements, your skilled care stay will be covered in part by Medicare. Currently, Medicare covers 100 percent of the costs after a three-night qualifying hospital stay for up to 20 days. As long as you continue to make progress, Medicare covers 80 percent from day 21 to day 100.

Are skilled nursing facilities safe?

They generally are! Thanks to nurses and CNAs on staff round the clock, skilled nursing facilities are able to keep a close eye on patients and give them the care they need.

Learn more about senior living solutions and how to navigate the decision-making process by downloading our resource, “The Journey to Senior Living: A Step-by-Step Guide for Families.”

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