Maybe you’ve used the term “nursing home,” possibly even interchangeably with “old folks home.” But if specificity is important anywhere, certainly it is important among the bureaucratic language of Medicare and insurance policies. The phrase you were likely looking for was “skilled nursing facility.” So, what is a skilled nursing facility?
According to Medicare, a skilled nursing facility is “a nursing facility with the staff and equipment to give skilled nursing care and, in most cases, skilled rehabilitative services and other related health services.” Down the rabbit hole, that leads to the question of what, exactly, constitutes “skilled nursing care”? Simply put, that’s the care given or supervised by registered nurses.
In other words, a skilled nursing facility provides residents the most comprehensive care possible, short of what’s available at a hospital or similar medical center. Staff at such facilities can provide a range of assistance at all hours, including monitoring medical equipment, administering medications, changing dressings – practically anything but surgery. This is a very high level of care, and also very expensive. Though prices around the country vary, the online group “SkilledNursingFacilities.org” estimates the average cost for a year in a shared room in a Medicare-certified facility at more than $70,000, and rising.
While many people may reside in a skilled nursing facility for a limited period, such as post-surgery convalescence, these facilities will serve as the final home for many residents. About half of those residents pay the costs of living in a skilled nursing facility themselves, according to Medicare. For those who require this high level of costly care for an extended period, however, they will likely exhaust their assets to the point that they will qualify for Medicaid, which will cover most associated costs. The level of coverage, however, may vary by state.
While quality may also vary, Medicare offers a very useful online tool to educate consumers called “Nursing Home Compare.” Users enter a zip code, city or state, and all facilities in that given area are listed along with rankings in four areas: overall rating, health inspections, staffing and quality measures.