There are approximately 15,000 nursing homes in the United States.  These are long-term care facilities, each providing different services depending on the length of time and level of care required by each individual resident.  These services are categorized into two different groups, skilled nursing facility, and nursing home care.

Skilled Nursing Facility

A skilled nursing facility provides care for seniors, meal preparation, as well as any necessary non-medical assistance.  However, they also provide the services of specialized individuals such as speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and rehabilitation specialists. A skilled nursing facility typically cares for those individuals who do not require long-term care services, but will return to their normal lives within a short period of time. Individuals often move into a skilled nursing facility directly from the hospital.

Skilled nursing facilities provide transitional care between a hospital stay and returning to the individual’s home.  It is considered short-term care.  One of the main differences between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home is the staff providing the care.  While in a nursing home the majority of the staff are non-medical workers, this is not true in a skilled nursing facility where the staff include medical workers such as registered nurses, vocational nurses, pathologists, medical doctors, and rehabilitation specialists.

In-Home Skilled Nursing

It is possible to receive skilled nursing care in the comfort of your own home as well. A registered nurse, physical therapist, or speech therapist may visit the home on a regular, or even daily, basis. These in-home skilled nursing care providers are able to help with therapy related to occupational, physical and speech needs, catheters, line dressing changes, feeding tubes, mediports, and wound care.

Nursing Home Care

Similar to a skilled nursing facility, nursing home care provides care for seniors, meal preparation, and any necessary non-medical assistance.  They do not provide the services of the specialists listed above.  What they do provide is permanent nursing assistance.  Nurses’ aides provide most of the care for the residents.  The nursing home care staff provides meals, take care of the laundry, clean the room, and provide extracurricular activities such as arts and crafts, exercise classes, entertainment, and tours outside of the nursing home facility.  These extracurricular activities are designed to enhance the lives of the residents and provide them with opportunities to participate in activities outside of the usual daily routine

Individuals who are no longer able to take care of themselves, for whatever reason, are looked after in a nursing home facility.  Services include assisting with basic daily needs such as bathing, eating, dressing, and mobility.

Differences in Coverage

The typical sources of funding for staying in either a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home are paying privately, paying through insurance, or paying with government funding such as Medicaid and Medicare.  Medicare covers the costs associated with skilled nursing care for a limited period of time (up to 100 days) but does not cover those services provided by nursing homes in terms of long-term care.  Medicaid does cover both skilled nursing care facilities and nursing homes as long as the individual meets the requirements for level of care and financial eligibility.

Regulation Differences

Skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes are governed and regulated in different manners.  Nursing homes must abide by state surveys, which are used to evaluate the home, and possible violations or immediate threats to the safety of each patient.  After that up is up to the administration of the nursing home to resolve those violations.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has quality measures to keep long-term care facilities accountable.  Skilled nursing facilities must follow the governance of the state, the United States Department of Health, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.