Skilled Nursing Homes

What Are They?


There are many different senior living options that may all look the same.

Some people may be tempted to call them all retirement communities or nursing homes, but the differences from one senior living option to the next can be vast.

For example, skilled nursing homes are considered to be a very specific type of senior care facility that offers healthcare to you or a family member that needs it.

Knowing the difference between skilled nursing homes and other senior living options can help ensure that you or your loved one get necessary support and care. At Select Senior Communities, we’ve created this guide to help you learn more about skilled nursing homes and find a community.

elderly woman smiling

What is a Skilled Nursing Home?

A skilled nursing facility (SNF) is a medical care facility for seniors who require daily health services.

Skilled nursing homes have at least one medical professional on staff, such as a registered nurse, doctor, or other type of therapist.

Along with these medical caregivers, skilled nursing homes also offer personal support to patients who require assistance with hygiene, mobility, and other needs.

Skilled nursing homes may sometimes be used on a short-term basis to help individuals recovering from illnesses, injuries, or other conditions. You are only able to extend a stay into long-term or permanent care if it’s considered medically necessary.

In order to be certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a skilled nursing home must meet strict criteria and pass regular inspections.

Comparing Skilled Nursing Homes to Other Senior Living Options

As mentioned above, the large variety of senior care options available can get pretty confusing. In order from the lowest level of care to the highest, here are the most common options to choose from:


An independent living community is designed for a healthy, active senior who wants to live in an age-restricted community of like-minded individuals, but does not need medical attention around-the-clock.


An assisted living community offers assistance to residents who may be having trouble with common activities of daily living (ADLs).


A nursing home is a long-term care plan that offers a higher level of care compared to independent or assisted living. These facilities offer frequent—but not necessarily daily—medical services on top of personal care. Doctors may be employed on staff, but it is more common for nursing homes to have RNs and LPNs handling the care of the patients.

Skilled Nursing Homes

As mentioned previously, this type of senior care community offers personal care assistance and daily skilled nursing services on a needs-basis. Therapists, licensed nurse practitioners, and doctors typically work full-time at a skilled nursing home.

Memory Care

A memory care unit is an individual program designed to support the specific care needs of seniors with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

A continuing care community allows residents to "age in place" as their needs change. The patients can easily transition between all of the levels of care in order to get more assistance with personal and medical care.

Who are Skilled Nursing Homes for?

Skilled nursing homes are for people who require medical attention and daily, long-term care from trained medical providers.

If you or a loved one need 24/7 medical supervision as well as assistance with the activities of daily living (hygiene, toileting, eating, and mobility), then skilled nursing home care may be your best option.

Most SNFs offer both long-term and short-term care for individuals who:
  • Have recently been discharged from a stay at the hospital
  • Need wound care
  • Need rehabilitation care services
  • Have acute or chronic conditions
  • Require physical therapy or occupational therapy after injury or surgery
  • Have Parkinson’s disease
  • Have diabetes
  • Are in recovery after a heart attack or stroke

Skilled Nursing Home Services and Amenities

As noted, skilled nursing homes may be for people who need high-quality care following a hospitalization or illness. 

Here’s what you can expect to receive at any skilled nursing home:
  • Private or semi-private room
  • Round-the-clock skilled nursing care
  • Mental, occupational, and speech therapies
  • Access to a comprehensive healthcare center
  • Three nutritious meals and snacks daily
  • Laundry and housekeeping services
  • Medication management
  • Transportation services
  • Rich calendar of social activities
  • Wellness and exercise programs
  • 24-hour supervision and security
  • Access to the best medical equipment available
  • Pandemic response safety protocols (such as COVID-19)

Paying for Skilled Nursing Homes

Unlike many other care options out there, skilled nursing care centers may be covered by Medicare and Medicare Part A. As long as you meet certain criteria, this government program may be able to cover the cost of your stay in a skilled nursing home for a limited time. Medicare will not only pay for SNF care, but it can also cover the room, meals, medication, and Medical Social Services—as long as 24-hour care is considered medically-necessary. When 24-hour care is desired but NOT deemed necessary, other options are available.

Bear in mind that Medicare usually doesn’t cover long-term care. Furthermore, Medicare and Medicaid coverage may also vary by state, so look at or check with your state’s local office for details.

If you or a loved one are a veteran, then you may be eligible for benefits that help with different types of senior care. Check with the Department of Veterans Affairs to review your benefits.

[To finance their stays in skilled nursing homes, many people turn to long-term care health insurance, Social Security payouts, profits from selling their home, and paying out of pocket.]

Still unsure if a Skilled Nursing Home is the right choice for you or a loved one?

At Select Senior Communities, we will help you understand the differences between nursing homes and SNFs in order to help find the right senior living community!

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