What Is Skilled Nursing Care?
Skilled nursing care is the level of care provided by a registered nurse who monitors your health and administers treatments or procedures around the clock, typically in a nursing home, also called a skilled nursing facility (SNF).
Skilled nursing is a higher level of care than basic nursing care, also provided in nursing homes to help seniors with daily tasks. However, skilled nursing is not as intensive as sub-acute care—comprehensive in-patient care for someone who has had an acute illness or injury, also provided in SNFs.
You may need to go into an SNF on a short-term basis if you need nursing care, or occupational, physical or speech therapy following a hospital stay before you can go home. Or if you need long-term medical care because of a major health condition, you or your family might turn to an SNF for your long-term care.
In addition to nursing care, you will get assistance with daily tasks at an SNF, much as you would in assisted living. These include bathing, grooming, getting dressed, and managing medicines.
SNFs or nursing homes are heavily monitored and must be licensed and inspected by the agency in each state that oversees long-term care facilities.
What Does a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Look Like?
Modern nursing homes are often housed in large buildings, but offer home-like areas such as living rooms, porches and other comfortable and inviting common areas where you can socialize, watch television, view live performances, or participate in group activities. Many also have outdoor gardens and sitting areas.
Nursing homes are designed to keep residents safe and secure, while letting them be as mobile as possible. They are normally equipped with features like non-skid floors, hand rails in hallways and in bathrooms, and handicap accessibility throughout.
Residents typically live in private or semi-private rooms that include a bathroom.
SNFs may be separate communities or they may be part of a larger Continuing Care Retirement Community that offers other levels of care, such as independent living and assisted living.
What’s It Like at a Skilled Nursing Care Home?
In an SNF, you will typically have a private bedroom with a bath to yourself or share your room and bathroom with one other resident.
You will have freedom to move around within the SNF, but may have a curfew time when you have to be back in your room in the evenings. Since staff will likely be assisting you with daily tasks like getting dressed or taking your meals, you’ll have to get used to doing routine things on a schedule.
Depending on your SNF, you may have amenities on site like a beauty salon or barber shop for getting your hair cut, a gift shop to buy items for friends or loved ones, or a fitness center for exercising.
You will also find lots of planned activities every day. You can typically participate in as many or as few as you like. There are also common areas where you can socialize with other residents and visitors, play games, watch television or participate in other activities.
Your health will be monitored by registered nurses on staff, and you will have emergency care available if you should need it.
Is an SNF Right for Me?
Consider these statements below to determine if they describe you:
- I have medical issues that require long-term attention.
- I suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- I need medical treatment or procedures on a regular basis.
- My health needs to be monitored daily.
- I need care from a nurse.
- I need help getting in and out of the bathtub or taking a bath or shower.
- I need help getting dressed.
- I need assistance with personal grooming.
- I get my medicines mixed up or can’t remember when to take them.
- I can no longer cook or need help preparing meals.
- I can no longer drive or can only drive very short distances.
- I no longer feel safe in my home.
- I feel isolated in my home.
- I do not have family or friends nearby if I need help
If most or all of the above Health and Daily Living statements apply to you, and you aren’t able to stay in your home, then an SNF may be a good option for you. You may also want to consider the following option if you want to stay in your home:
If most or all of the above Daily Living statements apply to you, but not the Health statements, then consider these options:
If none or hardly any of the Health or Daily Living statements apply to you, and you are still relatively healthy, but want to move to a home that gives you a more carefree lifestyle, consider these options:
What to Expect from Skilled Nursing Care?
You will receive the medical care and help with daily tasks that you need, but will still have freedom to move around within the SNF with some limits. You will also have lots of chances to socialize with other residents in group dining and common areas. And there are lots of activities offered daily.
These typically include:
- Movie nights
- Live performances
- Religious services
- Arts and crafts
Family members and close friends can visit you, but they may have to come at set times. You can also leave the SNF for short stays with family and friends, as allowed by your family, and as your health permits.
Your nursing care, meals, and all costs related to your room and board, such as utilities and maintenance, are typically covered in your fees, in addition to:
Other services and types of care, in addition to basic and skilled nursing care, offered at SNFs vary by community, but typically include:
Many SNFs also offer amenities like beauty salons, gift shops and fitness centers on site, and provide social and recreational activities, and fitness and health programs.
Costs of SNFs can vary greatly depending on the geographic location of the facility and whether you choose a private or semi-private room. Some facilities charge a monthly room rate, in addition to daily care rates, and may charge extra for nursing care and supervision beyond the basic level that’s included.
If the SNF you choose is Medicare certified, some or all of your care may be covered by government programs as shown below:
- Day 1-Day 20: Covered by Medicare at 100 percent. (To qualify for Medicare coverage, a three-night, inpatient hospital stay is required and you must enter the facility within 30 days of your hospitalization.)*
- Day 21-100: Copay of $141.50 per day. Copays may be covered by private insurance or Medicaid (if you qualify).
- After Day 100: Private pay or covered by Medicaid (if you qualify).
*For all of Medicare’s requirements, see “Medicare Coverage of Skilled Nursing Facility Care,” published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, coverage may vary.
According to Genworth’s 2017 Cost of Care Survey, the National Monthly Median cost of Skilled Nursing Care with a semi-private room in the United States is $7,148. For a private room the National Monthly Medium cost is $8,121.