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What Does Skilled Nursing Mean?

What is a Nursing Home or Skilled Nursing Facility?
A nursing home is normally the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital. Nursing homes provide what is called custodial care, including getting in and out of bed, and providing assistance with feeding, bathing, and dressing. However, nursing homes differ from other senior housing facilities in that they also provide a high level of medical care. A licensed physician supervises each patient’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Skilled nursing care is available on site, usually 24 hours a day. Other medical professionals such as occupational or physical therapists are also available. This allows the delivery of medical procedures and therapies on site that would not be possible in other housing.

Choosing a nursing home.
Finding the right nursing home is not easy, and you may be under pressure to move fast due to a recent hospitalization or deterioration in a health condition. The more information you have, the greater your chances of finding the right fit for you or a loved one. Here are some tips on narrowing down your options:

Start with referrals.

Does your family physician or specialist have any recommendations? Or do you know any friends who have used different homes? Knowing someone with first-hand experience of a nursing home can help you narrow your choices. However, remember your needs may differ: one size does not fit all.

Educate yourself.
Online resources for nursing homes include ranking sites that utilize existing state data to rate nursing homes. In the U.S., every state has what is called a long term care ombudsman, which can be a valuable resource about the current condition of a nursing home. Advocacy groups can also provide hints on searching for the right facility. See the Resources section below for more information.

Consider your medical needs.
Different nursing homes may have more expertise in different areas. Are they experienced in handling your condition, such as for Alzheimer’s or a stroke? Or are you looking for more short-term rehabilitation?

Factor in distance.
In general, the more convenient the home, the easier it is for family and friends to visit.