Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities or convalescent homes, cater to seniors who don’t need hospitalization but require more intensive support than provided by assisted living communities or in-home agencies. Medically trained multidisciplinary teams deliver long- or short-term medical, rehabilitative, therapeutic or personal care in a residential, clinically focused setting.

Services include:

  • Skilled nursing
  • Dietary guidance 
  • Rehabilitation therapies
  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Medical social services  

Around-the-clock nursing home care supports individuals following an illness, injury or surgery. Some seniors transition back into community care settings or return home after recovery. Nursing facilities also care for seniors with chronic conditions, cognitive decline, terminal illnesses and frailty. This guide explains nursing home care in further detail.  

Key Takeaways

  • Signs It May Be Time for Nursing Home Care: Diverse signs indicate a need for nursing home care.
  • Overview of Nursing Home Care Services: Skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes may offer differing services.
  • How Do Nursing Homes Compare to Other Senior Care Options? Nursing home care provides more medical and rehabilitative services than other long-term care options.
  • How Much Does Nursing Home Care Cost? Seniors may qualify for public funding to help them pay for nursing home care.
  • How To Find a Nursing Home: Families should compare facilities to identify the best fit for their loved one.

Signs It May Be Time for Nursing Home Care

Moving into a skilled nursing facility for long-term care may present a difficult decision for you and your loved ones, but it can also offer numerous benefits. Key signs that your loved one may benefit from nursing home care include:

  • Requiring more medical attention throughout the day
  • Decreased mobility
  • Eating poorly
  • Not caring for themselves physically
  • Struggling with medication schedules
  • Needing frequent specialist care
  • Suffering frequent falls
  • Experiencing significant changes in wellness, routines and behavior

When making your decision, it may also be helpful to:

  • Go through a typical day with your loved one and observe how well they’re managing.
  • Ask others if they’ve noticed any type of decline or significant changes you should know about.

For a more detailed guide, see our full article that answers the question, When is it time to move from assisted living to nursing home care?

Overview of Nursing Home Care Services

While nursing homes may vary in the level of care and services provided, intermediate care facilities represent a distinct category. Typically, these facilities have fewer beds compared to other residential care settings and offer a more limited range of services.

Nursing homes offer a variety of health-related care and services, which vary by facility, however:

  • Federal requirements state that each nursing home must provide specified services.
  • If a resident can’t perform activities of daily living on their own, nursing facilities must provide services to maintain good nutrition, grooming and personal and oral hygiene.
  • They may also provide a range of supplemental services.

For a more detailed guide, see our full article on nursing homes vs. skilled nursing facilities.

How Do Nursing Homes Compare to Other Senior Care Options?

Nursing homes differ from assisted living facilities and home health care, so ensure you’re choosing the right care option for your loved one by comparing the services provided and considering their needs.

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living

If your loved one doesn’t require full-time medical care or supervision but can’t continue living independently at home, consider assisted living in lieu of a nursing home.

Nursing Home Care

Assisted Living

Less independence and privacy

Greater independence and privacy

High levels of full-time medical services and care

Support with limited daily assistance

Typically pricier, but accept public funding

Typically more affordable, but many don’t accept public funding

Clinical environment

Communal environment

For a more detailed guide, see our full article on assisted living vs. skilled nursing.

Nursing Homes vs. Home Health Care and Home Care

Home care and home health care may suit seniors who can still mostly look after themselves and prefer to age in place. Both take place in a client’s residence, based on their needs and schedule. Home care provides non-medical support and home health care includes medical and non-medical assistance.

However, don’t confuse these options with hospice. This may take place in the home as well, but it provides end-of-life care with medical treatment for seniors who are expected to live about six months or less.

Nursing Home Care

Home Care

Home Health Care

Residential, medical-focused setting

Senior’s private home

Senior’s private home

Around-the-clock supervision, skilled nursing services, rehabilitation therapies and personal care

Help with activities of daily living and personal care

Personal care, therapies and intermittent skilled nursing

A multidisciplinary team of medical professionals and personal care aides

Personal care and domestic aides

Nurses, therapists and aides

Priciest option

Most affordable option

Mid-range option

Long- and short-term services

Long- and short-term services

Generally short-term services

For further details, see our full articles on home health care vs. nursing homes and nursing homes vs. home care.

How Much Does Nursing Home Care Cost?

According to the 2023 Genworth Cost of Care Study, the nationwide median monthly cost of nursing home care is $8,669 for a semi-private room and $9,733 for a private accommodation.

Many older adults and caregivers worry about the cost of medical care. How your loved one pays for their long-term care in a nursing home depends on their financial situation and the types of services they require. They may rely on a variety of payment sources.

Financial Assistance for Nursing Home Care

If you’re counting on Medicare or Medicaid to pay for your loved one’s nursing home care, find out whether a facility is government certified. Coverage under these programs is limited with strict qualifications, but you can learn more by contacting your local Social Security Office.

Government Funding Options

Understanding Medicare Coverage of Nursing Home Care

Medicare provides limited coverage for short-term stays in a skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay, but seniors must meet specific requirements. Key points include:  

  • They must remain hospitalized for at least three days.
  • Medicare will pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing per benefit period.
  • The first 20 days are covered in full.
  • From day 21, beneficiaries must pay a daily coinsurance rate.
  • After day 100, seniors are responsible for the entire cost.
  • To qualify for another benefit period, seniors must have at least 60 consecutive days between hospital or skilled nursing facility stays.
  • Coverage includes bed and board in a semi-private room, skilled nursing, rehabilitation therapies, medications, medical supplies and more.
  • Coverage excludes assistance with daily activities and using medical equipment.

Financial Assistance for Ongoing Nursing Home Care

Seniors who need help paying for long-term nursing home care may qualify for:

  • Medicaid
  • The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in select areas
  • Medigap supplements can cover daily coinsurance rates for days 21 through 100
  • Long-term care insurance can provide more comprehensive benefits

For further details, see our full article on nursing home costs and ways to pay.

How to Find a Nursing Home

Follow these steps to find the most suitable nursing home for you or your loved one:

  • Enter your ZIP code here in the Nursing Home Directory to find nursing homes in your area.
  • Check ratings and reviews from other family caregivers.
  • See government star ratings for nursing home quality.
  • If you are certain you will be using Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, restrict your search to Medicaid-only nursing homes.
  • Call numerous nursing homes to find what sets each one apart.
  • Ask for references and call them.

For further details, see our full article on choosing a nursing home.

How To Support a Loved One Moving Into a Nursing Home

Ease the transition into a nursing home by talking with your loved one about skilled nursing options sooner rather than later, and always seek their input, especially when it’s time to choose a facility. 

Once your loved one moves into a facility, stay involved and in touch through regular visits or phone calls when you can’t visit. Get to know the staff that cares for your loved one and work with the ombudsman should any concerns arise about your loved one’s care.

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