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What Is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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A skilled nursing facility is a location dedicated to the care of individuals in a residential facility, usually there on a long-term basis. These facilities specialize in the 24-hour care and observation of individuals whose needs are usually critical enough where they need constant watching, but not serious enough where hospitalization is required.

This type of nursing facility may be called a nursing home by some people. They are often called that because nurses, of varying degrees and certifications, take on the bulk of the patient care work. They carry out this care by working closely with a patient's team of personal doctors, following those physicians’ directions and holding consultations as necessary. Doctors also make visits, in some cases, to skilled nursing facilities to provide check-up examinations.

Traditionally, a skilled nursing facility has been used for care of the elderly, leading to the somewhat unflattering term "old folks home." However, since that time, many skilled nursing facilities have added rehabilitation to their list of services. An individual may check into a facility, for example, to work on physical therapy after a surgery like a hip or knee replacement.

Often, these types of surgery limit mobility and make it problematic, especially for someone who lives alone. Being at a specialized facility gives these individuals a chance to have round the clock care and also receive physical therapy services in the same location.

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In general, a skilled nursing facility is an option for those who can no longer carry out the functions of daily lives, either on a temporary or permanent basis. The staff will help the individual with a number of everyday tasks, including bathing, eating, grooming and toileting.

In the United States, time spent at such a facility can be expensive and not always covered by health insurance. This has led many individuals to consider getting a supplement to their normal health insurance coverage that will specifically cover nursing home care. A study reported by New York Life, an American insurance company, noted the average cost of a private room at a skilled nursing facility in the United States has increased to $204 US Dollars (USD) per day. The average price of a shared room is $180 USD per day. Prices were highest in the state of Alaska, where a private room costs more than $350 USD per day.

Room arrangements in a skilled nursing facility are similar to those in hospitals. They can be either private or shared. Similarly, bathrooms can be either private or shared.

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Discuss this Article

kentuckycat
Post 7

I think nursing homes generally get a bad reputation as places where you have a bunch of old people moping around all day.

I have a lot of people in my family who have worked at a nursing home at one point or another, and they say it's nothing like that. For one, nurses at those places generally make a little bit less than hospital nurses, which means most people at nursing homes work there because they want to.

Besides that, any place I have ever heard of has people in charge of activities for the residents. A lot of times they will go out to restaurants and have bands and things at the home. It isn't like they are cooped up in a room all the time doing nothing.

That's not to say that a few of the residents aren't in bad enough shape that they can't do those things, but those cases are rare. I think, in general, people living in nursing homes are happy to be there given the alternatives.

Emilski
Post 6

@Izzy78 - Like everything else, the cost would be heavily influenced by where you lived. If you're from a more rural place where the cost of living isn't as high, you could expect the daily cost to be less. In other places, though, I could certainly see the cost being upwards of 65,000 dollars.

Like you mentioned, most of the cost is going to the nurses, and that is a job that is in high demand. Even in the more rural places that I mentioned, nurses make well over the median salary in most cases.

I think a lot of it, too, depends on the services. My aunt works in a nursing home, and they market themselves as a physical therapy skilled nursing facility for people who have just finished surgery and whatnot. They also have a special wing devoted to patients with Alzheimer's, which is something no one else in the area has.

Izzy78
Post 5

Wow, I never realized a nursing home could cost that much per year. Is there any chance those numbers could be inflated? At $180 per day, that is over 65,000 dollars in a year. I know there are a lot of costs associated with paying personnel and for the facilities, but it doesn't seem like it would cost that much per year.

Obviously, if you have insurance, you won't be paying that much per year, but I know some people would have to pay out-of-pocket. Considering people in a nursing home aren't working, I think that would be too much for them to afford depending on their retirement funds.

TreeMan
Post 4

@starrynight - I would say abuse is extremely rare in the grand scheme of things, but not even considering the possibility of abuse, I think it is just important to find somewhere that the person will enjoy.

My mother is a nurse at a nursing home, and she says there are a lot of differences between homes depending on their management. I live in a fairly small town that has three different nursing homes. One of them is much smaller and considered a more up-scale place. The others are of a similar size but are run differently.

One of them is closely linked to the local hospital. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but a lot of people end up going to that one for short periods of time, because their insurance will cover the care whereas it won't at the other one.

starrynight
Post 3

Skilled nursing facility homes definitely fulfill a healthcare need in our society. Most of would probably prefer to take care of our older relatives ourselves, but sometimes they get so sick, it's too much for someone who isn't a medical professional.

That being said, I think it's important to do a thorough check on any skilled nursing facility you're thinking about sending an elderly relative to. I've read about cases of elder abuse in these types of facilities, so you want to make sure you find a good facility for your loved one.

JaneAir
Post 2

@indemnifyme - That is good advice. I've been trying to convince my parents to get long-term care insurance in case they need to go to skilled nursing homes when they are much older, but they're very resistant to the idea. I think they just don't want to think about the possibility.

And I must admit, I don't blame them one bit. We've been to see may older relative in skilled nursing facilities, and no matter how nice they are, most don't look like a very pleasant way to spend your old age.

indemnifyme
Post 1

As the article said, getting insurance to cover skilled nursing facility billing is a great idea. Skilled nursing facilities can be extremely expensive, and the cost is only going to keep rising. So, most insurance companies offer this type of insurance and call it something like "long term care insurance."

Also, the sooner you get it, the better. If you get long term care insurance when you're younger, you can usually lock in a low rate. However, the older you are, the more expensive your premium will usually be. I've heard it's usually best to start thinking about long term care insurance when you're in your 40's or early 50's.

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