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What is a Skilled Nursing Home?

A skilled nursing facility (SNF), or nursing home, is a licensed healthcare facility that provides rehabilitation services to senior citizens suffering from health complications and physical impairments.  Nursing homes are considered the highest level of senior care because they provide rehabilitation and medical services; whereas assisted living facilities and retirement homes are not licensed to provide "skilled" services.  Post-acute care, short-term rehabilitation, and long-term rehabilitation are the most common services provided by nursing homes.  All facilities are inspected and regulated by State Health Departments, and are required to provide 24/7 care. 

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Services Provided by Skilled Nursing Facilities

Staff Requirement at a Nursing Home

Skilled nursing facilities are required to have a Registered Nursing (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) on staff at all times.  RNs have higher education than LPNs, and therefore typically oversee LPNs.  Most states require that RNs are on staff at least 8 hours per day, with LPNs on duty the rest of the time.  Often times, there will be Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) who assist RNs and LPNs with their daily tasks.  Nursing homes that specialize in physical therapy will have a Licensed Physical Therapist (PT) on staff.  Additionally, federal nursing home laws require that a dietician, either part time or full time, is also on staff.  Most commonly, one of the RNs or LPNs is a certified dietician. 

It is important to note, in order to be Medicare and Medicaid certified, skilled nursing facilities must adhere to specific laws and requirements.  These laws can often change from year to year, so it is important to research your current year's regulations.  Additionally, nursing homes do not have a required staff to patient ratio.  However, they are required to report their staffing hours to a state survey agency.  Upon review, the state survey agency decides if the skilled nursing facility is providing adequate care for their residents.   

Important Things to Look for in a Nursing Home

The question of how we’re going to take care of our elderly is one that has been a constant struggle throughout the years, and it hasn’t gotten easier to answer. Much like in an exam, having more choices doesn’t necessarily mean you'll have an easier time coming up with the answer. Sometimes too many choices just tend to complicate matters even further.

And in our modern age, life has never been more complicated, especially with the advent of technology. As we get older, it’s easy to miss the essential things amidst the hustle of everyday life. However, there are decisions we will need to make when it comes to nursing homes, either for ourselves or our loved ones. With that in mind, here are the nursing home essentials that you should consider top priority.

Facility Certification

As with any service or institution, you need to ensure that they have the necessary certifications and permits issued by the proper authorities. In this instance, you need to make sure that the nursing home you’re looking at is certified by Medicare and Medicaid. Certifications are proof that a particular facility meets safety and operating standards.


This particular factor holds a lot of importance because this is what determines the frequency of visits that you’re going to be able to have (or make). More frequent visits have been proven to improve a resident’s emotional and mental state. Not only that, but these visits also allow you to address any issues with the quality of care provided by the staff.

Availability of Specialty Care

A facility needs to come with specialized programs and contingencies. This is a clear metric on how well-prepared and well-equipped a certain facility is. Specialty care facilities should also be located in areas that separate patients that require special care from the general populace of the nursing home, so that staff are better able to address any special needs.

Staff Availability

This refers to the ratio of available staff members during each shift in relation to the number of patients. As a general rule, any facility, regardless of industry and specialization, should avoid being understaffed in order to be able to address the needs of patients in an efficient manner. It’s a dangerous situation for patients to be left unattended. Any death that is the result of negligence will undoubtedly have legal repercussions.

Care Plans

Much like the way that each individual has a different set of needs, a facility needs to have individualized care plans for each patient. This is because there will be a difference in a protocol in terms of how the personnel of a facility handle a patient’s medication, diet, and therapy. This requires the evaluation and observation of a licensed physician.

On-Site Transportation Services

One of the most underestimated services comes in the form of on-site transport. This can often mean the difference between life and death. Even when the procedure involved does not necessarily qualify as an emergency, the availability of transportation to other places is a measure that cannot be overlooked.

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