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Skilled Nursing and Nursing Homes: What is the Difference?

skilled nursing Virginia Beach with senior woman and nurse

Skilled Nursing vs. Nursing Homes.

When exploring care options for yourself or a loved one, it can be hard to tell the difference between all the senior living terms out there: assisted living, personal care, nursing homes, skilled nursing, and long-term care can seem like the same thing. But there are distinct differences that can significantly impact your health.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community like Atlantic Shores features independent living along with a full continuum of on-site care services including assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. To help you make a more informed decision, this blog post will discuss skilled nursing and what makes it different from a nursing home.

Benefits of Skilled Nursing Care

Skilled nursing care can include both rehabilitation from an illness or injury and long-term care for chronic medical conditions that need around-the-clock care provided by trained professionals like registered nurses, and physical, speech, and occupational therapists. Typically, a skilled nursing facility can provide care related to:

  • Stroke or cardiac illness
  • Congestive heart failure
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Parkinson’s
  • Diabetes
  • Fractures or fall-related injuries
  • Orthopedic surgery

A skilled nursing facility will create a personalized plan to provide needed medical care, strength training and exercise, pain management techniques, and adaptive equipment to help you transition back to your home or an assisted living community. Types of available rehabilitation can include:

  • Stroke rehabilitation: This type of rehab therapy involves mobility training, motor skills exercises, and therapy to regain lost abilities including communication, balance and doing daily activities.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehab and respiratory therapy programs typically offer exercises, education, and support to patients with breathing difficulties from chronic illness or acute medical conditions, allowing them to achieve and maintain independence.
  • Physical therapy: This type of customized program is designed to help relieve pain, restore function, and enhance overall health through a variety of therapeutic exercises and specialized equipment.
  • Occupational therapy: Using everyday activities, this type of therapy helps older adults restore functional independence and improve their quality of life with strength training, transfer training and adaptive equipment training.
  • Speech therapy: With treatment, support and care, this type of rehab helps seniors with for patients with communication and swallowing disorders that often occur after the onset of dementia, a stroke, or other neurological trauma.

This high level of care is also for seniors who require ongoing assistance with everyday tasks like eating, bathing, getting dressed and taking medications at the correct time, plus they need ongoing access to licensed skilled nursing services for one or more medical conditions such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic conditions that limit mobility and the ability to live independently

Nursing Home vs. Skilled Nursing

While skilled nursing is a comprehensive, high-quality option for seniors needing a higher level of medical care after a major surgery or illness, nursing homes are for seniors with less specialized or serious medical care needs. Some services offered by a nursing home can include:

  • Medication monitoring
  • Personal care (including dressing, bathing, and toilet assistance)
  • General care (using oxygen, catheter care, eye drops, vitamins, stretching, etc.)
  • 24/7 emergency care
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Scheduled transportation 
  • Housekeeping

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the average stay in skilled nursing is 28 days. While a study by the National Planning Council found the average length of stay in a nursing home is 835 days. The goal of skilled nursing is to rehabilitate and improve symptoms so the patient can return home or to a lesser-care facility like a nursing home.

Another thing to consider is Medicare doesn’t typically pay for a stay in a nursing home, but it will pay for post-acute care or rehab while your loved one recovers from a major illness, injury, or surgery at a skilled nursing facility.

Skilled Nursing at Atlantic Shores

When trying to determine whether skilled nursing or a nursing home is the best option, consider the ultimate goal. If you or your loved one is rehabilitating to return to an independent living environment or needs care due to a chronic condition, then skilled nursing is the best option. 

One thing to keep in mind: if your loved one is about to be discharged from a hospital stay, it’s  important to be admitted to a skilled nursing unit prior to leaving a hospital. That’s because finding an available bed at a community offering the right level of care can take a little bit of time.

If you or someone you love needs skilled nursing in Virginia Beach, look no further than Seaside Health Center at Atlantic Shores. To learn more about our senior living community, contact us here.