FAQ: Skilled Nursing

October 21, 2020

Long term care terminology can get confusing for families looking for the best type of care for a loved one.

Below, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about skilled nursing and how to search for skilled nursing facilities in your area.

What is a skilled nursing facility and how is it different than a nursing home?

Skilled nursing care is a type of service provided by nursing homes covered by Medicare. This nursing or therapy care is performed by, or under the supervision of, medical professionals or technical personnel.

Skilled nursing care helps patients with complex medical and rehabilitation needs that can’t be addressed at home or in an outpatient setting. Typically, patients’ stays are short-term—in fact, nearly two-thirds of admissions to skilled nursing centers return home after receiving rehabilitation therapy.

So basically, a skilled nursing facility is a nursing home that offers these more acute clinical services. You may also see these facilities include “rehabilitation center” in their name. Nursing homes may also offer long term stay options for residents who require ongoing care.

When should my loved one go into a skilled nursing facility?

Typically, patients’ doctors recommend skilled nursing care. For Medicare to cover the cost of skilled nursing, the patient must enter the skilled nursing facility within 30 days after a qualifying hospital stay.

Find out more about Medicare coverage of skilled nursing care here.

What kind of care do skilled nursing facilities offer?

Some of the services skilled nursing facilities offer include (but are not limited to):

  • Medical care
  • Rehabilitation due to injury, disability or illness (physical, occupational or speech therapy)
  • Dietary counseling

You can learn more about what services different types of long term care offer here.

How do I choose a skilled nursing facility?

You can find skilled nursing facilities in your area by using our Care Finder here.

Once you’ve narrowed your options to three, you should reach out to each facility to ask questions and see if you can take a tour.

Consider the following questions when looking at a skilled nursing facility:

  • Is the center conveniently located for frequent visits from family and friends?
  • Is the atmosphere welcoming and attractive?
  • Is the environment safe and secure?
  • What care providers are on staff? What are their qualifications?
  • What services are offered?

You can see a full checklist of questions for skilled nursing centers here.

What happens after completing treatment at a skilled nursing facility?

It depends on your loved one’s needs. As stated above, most patients return home after receiving rehabilitative care. Some patients transition into assisted living or nursing home care, if they need more ongoing support. The skilled nursing facility can help advise you on next steps and coordinate additional care.