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What is a Skilled Nursing Facility (Nursing Home)?
A Nursing Home, also known as a Skilled Nursing Facility or SNF, has Registered Nurses who help provide 24-hour care to people who can no longer care for themselves due to physical, emotional, or mental conditions. A licensed physician supervises each patient's care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Mostnursing homes have two basic types of services: skilled medical care and custodial care. Skilled medical care includes services of trained professionals that are needed for a limited period of time following an injury or illness:
Skilled care may also be needed on a long term basis if a resident requires injections, ventilation or other treatment of that nature.
Custodial or personal care includes assistance with what are known as the activities of daily living, such as:
People who are able to recover from a disabling injury or illness, may temporarily need the custodial care as they are getting back the strength and balance to be independent again. For people who are losing their ability to function independently due to chronic disease and increasing frailty, custodial care may be a long-term need. In the most severe cases where a person is bed-bound, ongoing supervision by an RN is necessary along with the custodial care, to ensure proper hydration and nutrition and to prevent skin breakdown. If a custodial care resident becomes ill or injured, they may spend a period of time in skilled care, and then return to custodial care. Whether a resident is underskilled or custodial care is important in terms of who provides the care and who pays for the services provided.
In the United States, a "Skilled Nursing Facility" or "SNF" is a nursing home certified to participate in, and be reimbursed by Medicare. Medicare is the federal program primarily for the aged who contributed to Social Security and Medicare while they were employed. A "Nursing Facility" or "NF" is a nursing home certified to participate in, and be reimbursed by Medicaid. Medicaid is the federal program implemented with each State to provide health care and related services to those who are "poor." Each State defines poverty and; therefore, Medicaid eligibility. Those eligible for Medicaid may be aged, disabled or children (e.g. Children's Health Insurance Programs - CHIPs and Maternal-Child wellness and food programs).
In the United States, each State "licenses" its nursing homes, making them subject to the State's laws and regulations. Nursing homes may choose to participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid. If they pass a survey (inspection), they are "certified" and are also subject to federal laws and regulations. All or part of a nursing home may participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid.
In the United States, nursing homes which participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid are required to have licensed practical nurses (LPNs) (in some States designated "vocational nurses" or "LVNs") on duty 24 hours a day. For at least 8 hours per day, 7 days per week, there must be a registered nurse on duty. Nursing homes are managed by a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Unlike U.S. nursing there are no standardized training and licensing requirements for administrators, though most states require a Federal License, and many states such as California have their own licensure for administrators
Is Nursing Home care covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance?
Most medical insurance coverage follows Medicare guidelines. Private insurance and Medicare pay for nursing home care only for limited time periods following a hospitalization:
While you are receiving skilled care, or rehabilitation, the nursing home will provide any needed custodial care along with the professional services, and Medicare pays. If you have Medigap insurance, it may cover deductibles and some other charges. However if you reach a point where you no longer have "rehab potential," but still need daily services of an RN in addition to the custodial care, you must bear the cost of the care. For many people this means drawing down savings, sometimes to the point where your assets are mostly depleted, and then you may qualify for Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California). Medicaid will then start paying for the long-term care in a Nursing Home.
Please refer to Payment Options for Senior Housing and Residential Care for more detailed discussion of the costs of Nursing Homes and other senior living facilities.
How does a Nursing Home differ from an Assisted Living Facility or a Continuing Care Retirement Community?
Some residents spend only a short time in a Nursing Home; others spend the rest of their lives there. However, the Nursing Home population has been declining in recent years as more choices become available for seniors who need help. With the rise of Assisted Living Facilities, for example, people who might formerly have gone into a Nursing Home yet are able to manage with more limited care, now have an additional option.
Assisted Living Facilities offer help with activities of daily living (personal or custodial care), but no, or very limited, medical care. An Assisted Living Facility also places greater emphasis on personal privacy and autonomy than does a Nursing Home. Nursing Homes have RN's onsite and MD's on call, 24 hours a day; while assisted living facilities provide only personal assistance that can be performed by someone with little or no medical training.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities provide independent living, housing-with-services, and Nursing Home care in one location, enabling seniors to remain in a familiar setting as they grow older. Many seniors enter a Continuing Care Community while they are healthy and active, knowing they will be able to stay in the same community and receiveNursing Home care should this become necessary. If a senior requires Nursing Home care for a while and then becomes well enough to again live independently, they can move back to an Independent Living arrangement without leaving the Continuing Care Community.
Appropriate candidates for a Nursing Home or Skilled Nursing Facility
Each senior's need for care or assistance is unique. Some individuals may have a short-term need, perhaps caused by a fall and a broken hip, that necessitates a brief hospitalization followed by rehabilitation. After a one- or two-month Nursing Home stay, the senior may be able to return home and continue receiving some services such as physical therapy from a home health care agency, if necessary.
Other people have more long-term needs, possibly due to Alzheimer's, extreme frailty, or a stroke. In this case, care is necessary on an ongoing basis.
A Skilled Nursing Facility is for an individual who meets one or more of the following criteria:
Living arrangements offered in Skilled Nursing Facilities
Skilled Nursing Facilities provide a private or shared room with a private or shared bathroom. Some Nursing Homes allow couples to stay together, and some may even allow pets. With the emphasis on patient care, however, the general ambiance has precluded much privacy or a sense of "home".
Increasingly, however, creative architectural design has made some Nursing Home living arrangements more homelike. Through the use of natural fibers and lighting, for example, many spaces throughout the Nursing Home feel friendly and warm. Many resident rooms and hallways may be carpeted, with new carpet material that can be easily cleaned on a daily basis. In addition, outdoor courtyards and indoor plants enhance livability and personal comfort in some of today's Nursing Homes.
Another major design change that's beginning to appear is in nurse's stations. Formerly centralized for efficiency, a Skilled Nursing Facility nurse's station can now be more like a reception area where residents and staff can easily interact.
Services provided by a Nursing Home/Skilled Nursing Facility
Nursing Homes/Skilled Nursing Facilities offer an array of services, in addition to the basic skilled nursing care and the custodial care. They provide a room, all meals, some social activities, personal care, 24-hour nursing supervision and access to medical services when needed.
Basic Nursing Home Services generally include:
For an additional fee, many Nursing Homes provide:
Long Term Care Insurance may cover the cost of supplemental care, plan for the future: