35% of old people will end up in a nursing home for any period of time during their lives, according to the Administration for Community Living. Seniors receive an average of 1 year of care in nursing homes over the course of their lives. The duration of stay depends on the conditions being treated and the level of care needed for rehabilitation. According to the American Geriatrics Society, 25% of those admitted remain in nursing facilities for 3 months or less. Typically, short-term stays are for rehabilitation or for hospice care. Roughly half of nursing home residents spend at least 1 year in the facility, and 21% stay for 5 years or longer. 

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide 24-hour medical supervision and assistance with activities of daily living. The care team often includes licensed or registered nurses and other staff members, such as social workers and therapists. 

Who Is Admitted to Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes admit people who require skilled nursing care, either for short-term rehabilitation or for the duration of their lives. Because older adults often need more support after a hospitalization, they can be transferred to a nursing home if their recovery requires a nursing home level of care. This level of care is defined differently from state to state, but it generally means the person in question requires extensive medical care and round-the-clock support for activities of daily living and with medical care. Seniors are often admitted after a serious injury, illness or surgery. 

Nursing homes are more likely to admit elderly people, with over 15% of adults aged 85 or older living in nursing homes and only 1.1% of those aged 65 to 74 years requiring skilled care. Nursing home residents are also likely to have lower incomes and poor family support. Residents generally have geriatric syndromes, such as frailty and dementia, and struggle with functional or cognitive activities. In many cases, Medicare and Medicaid cover a portion or all of the costs of a nursing home if it’s deemed medically necessary, and the individual qualifies for it.

What Care Do Nursing Homes Provide?

Nursing homes provide seniors with the support they need with activities of daily living, such as grooming, bathing, ambulation and toileting, while also offering skilled nursing care to meet medical needs. In a nursing home, many hospital treatments can be offered to admitted seniors, including orthopedic care, breathing treatments, IV therapy, wound care and post-surgery care. Some hospitals transfer patients to nursing homes for long-term recovery. The exact services and supports offered vary from facility to facility, but all offer high-level skilled nursing care.

Other nonmedical supports are available at nursing homes as well. These include life enrichment activities and social events, respite care for seniors who temporarily need care while their primary caregiver is unavailable, nutritional counseling and social work services. Many nursing homes also offer hospice and end-of-life care.