Skilled Nursing Homes

What Are They?

When it comes to senior living, there are a lot of options that sound similar.

And while you might just call them retirement homes, nursing homes, or old folks’ homes, the differences between each senior living community can be vast.

Skilled nursing homes are a specific type of senior care facility that offers certain medical care and other services that you or your family member may not receive in another setting.

Knowing the difference between a skilled nursing home and other care facilities help you make sure you or your loved one get the necessary care and support.

elderly woman smiling

What is a Skilled Nursing Home?

A skilled nursing home is a healthcare facility for older adults who require daily medical care services.

Skilled nursing facilities (SNF) have at least one medical professional, like a registered nurse, on staff; some skilled nursing homes also employ doctors and other therapists.

In addition to these medical professionals, skilled nursing homes offer personal care support for residents who need assistance with hygiene, mobility, and more.

Skilled nursing homes are typically short-term care options used to help residents recover from specific conditions, injuries, or illnesses. You can only extend a skilled nursing home stay into long-term or permanent care if it is medically necessary.
Skilled nursing homes must meet strict criteria and pass regular inspections in order to be certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Comparing Skilled Nursing Homes with Other Care Options

As we mentioned, the wide variety of senior care options can get confusing, especially when some names sound alike. In order of least assistance offered to most, here are common care options you may come across:


Independent living is designed for healthy, active seniors who want to live in an age-restricted community, but who do not require medical or personal care.


Assisted living facilities offer assistance with personal care to seniors who have trouble with the activities of daily living.


Nursing homes offer a higher level of care than assisted living does, such as frequent (but typically not daily) medical care, in addition to personal care. A doctor may be on staff, but it's more common for nursing homes to employ RNs and LPNs instead. Nursing homes are a long-term care plan.

Skilled Nursing Homes

As mentioned, these facilities offer daily skilled nursing services on an as-needed basis, in addition to personal care assistance. Nurse practitioners, doctors, and therapists often work full-time at skilled nursing homes.

Memory Care

Memory care are individual units or facilities designed to support the specific needs of residents with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

These communities are designed to allow residents to "age in place"; as their needs change, the residents can transition from independent living to getting more assistance with personal and medical care.

Who are Skilled Nursing Homes for?

Many residents in skilled nursing homes are seniors who require daily, long-term care and medical attention from a skilled medical provider.

If you or your loved one need assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs), like hygiene, toileting, eating, and mobility, in addition to regular medical care, then skilled nursing home care may be the best option.

Some SNFs offer short-term care for people who:
  • Have just been discharged from a hospital stay
  • Require wound care
  • Require rehabilitation services
  • Have acute or chronic medical conditions
  • Need physical or occupational therapy after surgery or injury
  • Have Parkinson’s disease
  • Have diabetes
  • Are in stroke or heart attack recovery

Most skilled nursing homes offer both long- and short-term care options.

Skilled Nursing Home Services and Amenities

As noted, skilled nursing homes are typically a short-term care plan for people who need acute care following a hospitalization or illness. However, that doesn’t mean the staff won’t offer high-quality care during your stay!

Here’s what you can expect to get at a skilled nursing home:
  • Semi-private or private room
  • Round-the-click skilled nursing care
  • Occupational, mental, and physical therapies
  • Healthcare center
  • Three daily meals and snacks
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Medication management
  • Daily schedule of activities
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Transportation services
  • 24-hour security and supervision

Paying for Skilled Nursing Homes

Unlike some other eldercare options, skilled nursing care centers are typically covered by Medicare.

Medicare will cover the cost of your stay in a skilled nursing home for a limited time as long as you meet certain conditions. Medicare will pay for skilled nursing care and medication, meals, a semi-private room, and Medical Social Services—as long as 24-hour care is medically necessary.

Keep in mind that Medicare will not cover long-term care. Medicare and Medicaid coverage also varies by state, so check with your state’s office for details.

When 24-hour care is desired but not deemed medically necessary, other options are required.

If you or your loved one are a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs can help you review your benefits. Veterans are eligible for some benefits that help with different types of senior care.

Paying out of pocket is another common option. Many people utilize long-term care insurance, Social Security payouts, and profits from selling their home to finance their stays in nursing homes and skilled nursing homes.

Stil not sure if a Skilled Nursing Home is the right choice?

We can further discuss the differences between nursing homes and SNFs and help you find the right senior living community for your situation.

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