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What is a skilled nursing facility?

​Skilled nursing centers offer long-term or short-term care options. Some residents may come in with a plan to stay indefinitely. Other residents stay temporarily, often because of short-term medical conditions that require care in an assisted living setting.

High level of medical care

As the name suggests, skilled nursing care is a high level of medical care. This type of management is generally too complex to be provided in the home setting by family members. At such facilities, nursing staff is on-hand to provide all of the necessary care for a chronic or temporary health condition. These services include 24/7 nursing coverage for medical conditions that require constant monitoring.

Examples of skilled nursing services provided include carrying out medical orders as prescribed by physicians. This care could be wound care, injections, intravenous (IV) therapy and monitoring medical equipment and vital signs.

At a nursing facility, your loved one may also undergo physical therapy. For instance, strengthening of the large muscle groups that allow for being more mobile.

Occupational therapy is also offered at a nursing facility. This therapy focuses on improving fine motor skills and includes those tasks that require use of the upper body, like eating and brushing teeth and hair.

If necessary, speech therapy is also available. Following a stroke, your loved one may need to learn how to speak or swallow again.

General nursing supervision and care

Even if your loved one doesn't require care for a particular condition, the professionals at a skilled nursing facility will ensure that he or she stays healthy. For instance, staff will help ensure that residents keep cool and hydrated during the summer heat. They will also see that your loved one takes his or her medications on schedule.

When is a transition to nursing care advisable?

Whether your loved one requires nursing care is a decision for you and your family. Some individuals can stay at home with supervised care; it's best for other people to move to a facility. If your loved one was hospitalized for a condition, an assessment regarding care can be done before discharge.

Various reasons to consider expert away-from-home care include the need for rehabilitation services, such as for a fracture or joint replacement, or diabetic or stroke treatment. Acute medical conditions also often require a facility, such for wound or respiratory care. Individuals with terminal illnesses or conditions that become progressively worse, such as Parkinson's, are also good candidates for a skilled nursing facility.

How to choose a skilled nursing facility

When selecting the best skilled nursing facility for your loved one, it's important to ask the following questions.

  • Services - Does the location have everything required to care for your loved one? Does the facility have all the necessary personnel needed to make sure your loved one gets the best care? For instance, is there a vocational therapist on staff?

  • Credentials - Is the facility licensed in the state in which it resides? Does the center accept Medicare and Medicaid coverage? Does the center feature a quality assurance program? Will they allow you to review the center's recent state survey? Has the center received any awards?

  • Amenities - What is the age of the building? Will your loved one have a private or semi-private room? How's the menu? Are special requests allowed? Is there Wi-Fi?

  • Staff - How well do the staff and residents interact? Are the physicians and nurse practitioners on staff? How many RNs are on staff and what is their ratio per patient? Do the various therapists work on staff? If not, how many days a week are they on site?

  • Comfort level - Do you and your loved one find the facility warm and welcoming? Do you feel comfortable leaving your family member there to live?

"Choosing a skilled nursing facility that's just right for your family member is not an easy task," says Williams from PruittHealth. "Take your time assessing what's best for your loved one, and you're likely to find the ideal facility."

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