Two of the most common health care services designed for seniors are nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). At first glance, they may seem the same. Each offers a place to stay while providing custodial and medical care. The two also offer many of the same types of amenities and services. Their similarities often outshine their differences. Because of this, the two are frequently confused with each other.
So, what are the differences?
Nursing homes are considered a living option, while SNFs are a type of care.
True, each location offers a nursing staff, 24-hour emergency care, and social activities. But, their most notable difference? Duration of stay.
Nursing homes are an option for seniors who do not need a hospital but require a higher level of care or medical attention. Nursing home residents are in it for the long haul. Their stay is usually indefinite, so comfort is of particular importance. Accordingly, there are often more amenities available such as recreational activities, fitness programs, and arts and crafts. Salon services are also a common feature.
Skilled nursing facilities are for residents who require short-term medically necessary services; the goal is to get well enough to go home. Patients in an SNF are typically those who have just left the hospital. Rehabilitation is of particular importance.
Nursing homes and SNFs aren’t managed the same.
Nursing home care is largely provided by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and other care professionals under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN). SNF care is provided by a team of nurses and staff under the supervision of a doctor or RN.
While nursing homes may offer some skilled nursing care, residents also keep their outside personal physicians. In contrast, an SNF essentially offers its namesake, skilled nursing. So -all necessary treatments are available within the facility.
Admission circumstances differ.
As nursing homes are for long-term care, they’re usually sought out as a senior’s health begins to decline. A person may require memory care or mobility assistance. They may also need help with everyday tasks and grooming. Medication management is another common need.
A patient usually enters a skilled nursing facility post-hospitalization. SNF care is recommended for many reasons such as monitoring, physical therapy, or wound care. Patients are admitted with the intent to get well and go home as soon as possible.
Medicare coverage differs.
Nursing homes are considered long-term care, which Medicare does not cover. However, on occasion, it is possible for Medicare to pay a portion of the cost if a patient is receiving temporary doctor-recommended care.
Medicare will pay for SNF care if it is preceded by a qualifying hospital stay. It must also be recommended by a doctor and the facility should be Medicare-certified.
How to recognize and choose the right option
Understanding the differences between nursing home and SNF care will ensure you are capable of choosing the best quality of care possible.
|Nursing Home||Skilled Nursing Facility|
|Duration of stay||Long-term||Short-term|
|Admission circumstances||Declining health|
Frequent assistance needed
|Usually after hospitalization|
|Type of care||Long-term|
|Staff||RN, LPN, PCA, administrators, directors||RN, LPN, PCA, physical therapists, occupational therapists|
|Who oversees care plans?||RN, administrators||RN, doctor|
|Medicare coverage||No (few exceptions)||Yes|
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