Nursing Homes

Table of Contents

1. What Is a Nursing Home?

2. What Services Are Provided by Nursing Homes?

3. What Are the Benefits of Living in a Nursing Home?

4. Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: What’s the Difference?

5. Do Nursing Home Residents Receive Nursing Care Plans?

6. What Does a Typical Nursing Care Plan Look Like?

7. What Are Signs My Loved One Needs a Nursing Home?

8. What Is Respite Care?

9. Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care?

10. What Are Other Ways to Pay for a Nursing Home?

11. What Questions Should I Ask When Researching Nursing Homes

12. How Do I Find Nursing Homes near Me?

1. What Is a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing or nursing care facilities, are residential living environments for older adults who need 24-hour medical care and assistance with performing essential everyday tasks. Nursing homes are ideal for seniors who do not require hospitalization but are not capable of being fully independent and caring for themselves. These senior living communities provide residents with the security, care, and peace of mind to continue going about their daily lives while experiencing an improved quality of life alongside peers in their same generation.

Nursing homes may offer short-term care, long-term care, or both. Short-term care—also known as critical care nursing—is for seniors in recovery from a recent surgery, injury, or acute illness who need temporary 24-hour medical care outside of a hospital setting. Many patients who receive critical care nursing move back into their homes following recovery, though some with a chronic illness may end up staying at the nursing home to receive long-term care.

Long-term nursing care is for seniors with dementia and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease who may need specialized memory care services. Long-term nursing care is also for seniors with a chronic or terminal illness that requires ongoing and immediate access to a high level of medical care. Seniors who receive long-term care usually stay at nursing homes for the remainder of their lives, and end up building meaningful relationships with nursing staff and other residents to benefit from an enhanced quality of life.

2. What Services Are Provided by Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes offer a wide range of services that will vary for each patient based on their level of care and on whether they receive short- or long-term nursing care. Generally, most nursing homes offer the same set of services based on federal requirements. These services include:

  • 24-hour nursing care, including palliative and preventative care

  • Medically related social services, including treatment for medical conditions

  • Pharmaceutical and medication management services that help residents obtain, take, and administer prescribed medications

  • Rehabilitative services for residents with mental health disorders or intellectual disabilities, including speech, physical, cognitive, occupational, respiratory, and vocational therapies

  • Nutrition services, including healthy, prepared meals tailored to each resident’s unique health status and nutrition needs

  • Dental services, including routine and emergency services

  • Professionally directed program of activities designed to enhance and improve the mental, physical, and psychosocial well-being of all nursing home residents

  • Housekeeping services, including room and bed maintenance

  • Personal hygiene services, such as assistance with bathing, dressing, and grooming

Many nursing homes also provide additional services on top of those required by the federal government. When researching your options for nursing homes, it is important to ask about specialized and complementary services that can further enhance the quality of life for yourself or your senior loved one.

Other services that may be provided by nursing homes include:

  • Help with performing activities of daily living, such as with navigating around the nursing home, using the restroom, and feeding

  • Laundering, ironing, and other household-related tasks

  • Fitness activities and exercise classes, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and water aerobics

  • Social activities and events, such as dancing, board game nights, and holiday celebrations

  • Religious and spiritual services, including Bible study

  • Transportation to and from hospitals, banks, and other outside facilities

3. What Are the Benefits of Living in a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes offer a number of benefits for seniors who need constant access to medical care and help with performing everyday activities. Nursing homes can greatly improve the quality of life for older adults who do not wish to burden their relatives with caregiving duties or who have chronic medical conditions requiring access to 24-hour nursing care. Here are other benefits of living in a nursing home.

Improved Nutrition

Aging is often accompanied by many different changes to one’s health and lifestyle that can make it difficult to maintain good nutrition and eat regular meals. For instance, decreased appetite is a common side effect of many medications, while wheelchairs and canes can make it difficult to safely navigate the kitchen and prepare healthy meals. MedlinePlus reports that optimal nutrition may help prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers in the older adult population. Nursing homes provide residents with prepared, healthy meals served in the dining hall or cafeteria that can be customized for each resident based on their unique nutrition needs. 

Social Interaction

Feelings of isolation and loneliness become more prevalent with age, especially when older adults fall out of touch with relatives, experience the loss of a spouse, or suffer cognitive problems that can make communication more difficult. Nursing homes provide seniors with the opportunity to socialize with peers in their living communities, and organize various social events that appeal to older generations. Nursing homes that offer memory care services for residents with dementia even offer specialized social activities designed to enhance cognitive function and slow the progression of dementia. 

Safety and Security

Seniors are often more susceptible to falls and injuries than their younger counterparts, and are often considered easy targets for theft and fraud. Seniors with dementia are also prone to wandering and getting lost, or may forget to lock and close their windows and doors. Nursing homes provide seniors with the safety and security services they need to avoid or reduce their risk for harm. Residents are constantly surrounded by staff members who are professionally trained to spot potential threats and dangers.

Housekeeping Services

Vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry, and changing bedding are examples of household chores that can be time-consuming, physically challenging, and exhausting for many seniors. Many nursing homes offer housekeeping services that handle these common chores so residents can spend more time focusing on their health and livelihood. 

Specialized Health Care

Dementia, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease are the most common chronic health conditions that affect people aged 85 years and older, according to a 2017 study in Frontiers in Public Health. Many nursing homes have memory care units that offer specialized care for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and will usually develop customized meal plans for residents with osteoporosis that provide them with higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Seniors who move into nursing homes can benefit from knowing they will receive specialized health care for their medical conditions.

4. Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: What’s the Difference?

Assisted living communities and nursing homes share a lot of similarities, but the main difference between the two is that nursing homes provide 24-hour medical care and skilled nursing care, while assisted living communities offer only limited medical care and supervision. 

Assisted living communities are ideal for older adults who may need a low level of medical care and minimal assistance with performing normal daily living activities. Seniors in assisted living communities are typically independent and usually only need minimal help performing a low number of specific tasks, such as bathing or grooming. Nursing homes offer more extensive medical care for seniors who need help around the clock.

Nursing homes and assisted living communities offer many of the same activities, amenities, and services, including housekeeping services, nutritious meals, transportation, social events, and fitness classes. Some communities offer both assisted living and nursing care under one roof so residents can transition seamlessly from one unit to the next in the event their health and medical needs change.

5. Do Nursing Home Residents Receive Nursing Care Plans?

A nursing care plan allows medical staff to stay on the same page and work toward the same goals as they relate to a patient’s health care; therefore, the importance of nursing care plans is recognized by nearly all nursing homes. Every resident at a nursing home will receive their own personalized nursing care plan. 

Nursing care plans are usually developed for patients at the time of admission to the nursing home after doctors have properly evaluated a patient’s medical records and determined their medical needs. Each patient’s nursing care plan is shared with all members of the medical staff to ensure patients receive their medications on time and are having their medical needs met at all times. Nursing care plans are critical references in nursing homes due to frequent shift changes among nurses and the ever-changing medical statuses of patients.

When researching your options for nursing homes, ask about whether the facility develops customized nursing care plans for each patient, and about the frequency at which these plans are updated, shared, and accessed by medical staff. Narrow your options down to nursing homes that place emphasis on the importance of a nursing care plan and recognize the importance of whole-person health for patients.

6. What Does a Typical Nursing Care Plan Look Like?

Nursing care plans typically vary from one nursing home to the next based on the mission and objectives of each facility and its staff members. In most cases, a typical nursing care plan includes the patient’s diagnoses and medical conditions; preferred or anticipated goals and outcomes; nursing interventions; and routine evaluations.

Diagnoses

Every nursing home patient will undergo a thorough assessment at the time of intake. This assessment will generally include physiological and psychological health data and information about the patient’s lifestyle, which allows medical staff to collaborate and develop a customized treatment plan for each patient based on their medical needs. Diagnoses noted in the nursing care plan may also be clearly defined to ensure all staff members stay on the same page about a patient’s health needs.

Goals and Outcomes

Every nursing care plan will include short- and long-term treatment goals for each patient, along with anticipated outcomes. For instance, a short-term goal for a resident with osteoporosis who recently suffered a fracture after falling may focus on healing the fracture, while the long-term goal may be to increase the patient’s intake of calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

Interventions

The interventions outlined in a nursing care plan are the various actions nurses will take to achieve the established treatment goals and outcomes. These interventions may include checking the patient’s blood pressure twice a day or administering medications at the appropriate times. Interventions can change at any time based on a patient’s health status, and will always be documented in their nursing care plan.

Routine Evaluations

Patients in nursing homes will receive routine checkups and evaluations so interventions can be stopped, started, or modified as needed to improve the outcome. A patient’s nursing care plan may specify the frequency at which evaluations are needed to support health goals and outcomes.

Before choosing a nursing home for yourself or a loved one, ask if you can see nursing care plan examples to gain a better idea about the quality of care delivered by the facility. 

7. What Are Signs My Loved One Needs a Nursing Home?

Transitioning your loved one into a nursing home is an important decision and a big step toward making sure your loved one can be properly cared for as they continue to age and their medical condition progresses. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine when your loved one should move into a nursing home, especially if you think it’s possible for you to continue managing your loved one’s health and needs at home. However, moving your loved one into a nursing home can strongly benefit your overall quality of life and that of your loved one.

Here are questions that can help you determine whether it’s time for your loved one to move into a nursing home.

  • Does your loved one need 24-hour medical care and supervision that you and your relatives can no longer provide?

  • Does your loved one have medical needs that require specialized care or frequent visits to specialists such as physical therapists and oncologists?

  • Is your loved one experiencing difficulty with moving around and being mobile, and needs an increasing amount of assistance?

  • Is your loved one struggling with performing essential daily tasks such as bathing, using the restroom, and performing basic household chores?

  • Has your loved one’s nutrition declined due to dementia, poor mobility, decreased appetite, and/or difficulty chewing and swallowing?

  • Is your loved one experiencing problems with medication adherence, such as forgetting to take medications or doubling doses by accident?

  • Has your loved one’s personal hygiene declined due to difficulties associated with grooming, bathing, brushing teeth, and incontinence?

  • Has your loved one been accumulating a higher number of unexplained bruises, cuts, sores, fractures, and other injuries?

  • Is your loved one exhibiting sudden changes in mood and behavior, such as aggression, confusion, and paranoia?

  • Is your loved one suffering increased bouts of memory loss, or do they appear to have dementia?

  • Has your loved one been caught wandering or getting lost outside of the home?

  • Is your loved one spending more time in isolation, or have they expressed feelings of loneliness?

  • Has your loved one mentioned the desire to spend more time in social settings or with people in their same age group?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it may be time to move your loved one into a skilled nursing home.

8. What Is Respite Care?

Caregiving can become extremely overwhelming at times, especially when you are caring for a loved one with a variety of demanding health needs. Respite care is a service that provides temporary relief for caregivers. Some define respite care as a much-needed break away from the daily and ongoing demands associated with caregiving.

Many nursing homes provide respite care services for caregivers and offer short-term housing for seniors who need 24-hour supervision, medical care, and assistance with performing routine daily activities. Respite care is also available in the form of adult day care programs, which offer daytime relief to caregivers who must go to work and handle personal business during daytime hours, reports the Administration for Community Living.

Though the main goal of respite care is to temporarily relieve the primary caregiver of their duties, this service also gives patients the opportunity to interact with different nurses and caregivers, as well as peers in the nursing home community. While their loved ones are being properly cared for at a nursing home, caregivers can devote their time to self-care in the form of vacations; errands; beauty and spa treatments; or relaxation at home with fewer obligations and responsibilities.

Many caregivers outside of a nursing home are children or spouses of the person being cared for, and may have been placed in their caregiving roles unexpectedly. As a result, these individuals may still be experiencing difficulty adjusting to their roles as caregivers while also managing careers, household duties, and families, and need extra support in the form of respite care. A study published in a 2018 issue of Inquiry reports that an estimated 45% of caregivers of people with dementia have unmet mental health needs and could benefit from emotional support or respite care.

9. Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care?

Medicare defines nursing home care as custodial care, which is assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, and getting dressed. At this time, custodial care is not covered by Medicare. However, if your loved one is a Medicare beneficiary in need of a Medicare nursing home, those with Medicare Part A may receive coverage for care in a certified skilled nursing facility. Skilled nursing must be considered medically necessary in order for it to be covered by your loved one’s Medicare plan.

Though Medicare may not cover the cost of nursing home care, this federal health plan will still cover costs related to hospital care, doctor services, and medical supplies—even for those who are living in nursing homes and paying out of pocket. If your loved one has Medicare and has decided to move into a nursing home, contact Medicare directly to learn more about which services are covered, including prescription drug coverage.

10. What Are Other Ways to Pay for a Nursing Home?

In most cases, the staff members at nursing homes will discuss available financing and payment options that can help you or your loved one establish residency at the facility. Here are other ways you may be able to pay for nursing home care.

Medicaid

Medicaid eligibility criteria and benefits will vary from one patient to the next based on the person’s income and state of residency. Medicaid may cover costs associated with nursing homes even if patients have not been hospitalized or are in recovery from an illness or injury. Eligible Medicaid beneficiaries may receive full coverage for room and board at a nursing home, including therapies and services offered by the nursing home. Patients can contact their state’s Medicaid office directly to learn more about eligibility criteria and available benefits.

Long-Term Care Insurance

This type of insurance may cover costs associated with the support services offered in a nursing home, including activities of daily living. In some instances, coverage may be limited for those with pre-existing health conditions. Patients with long-term care insurance can contact their providers directly to learn more about the coverage provided for nursing homes.

Veterans Affairs

War veterans and their spouses may be eligible to receive partial coverage for nursing home care, including those with service-related disabilities. The amount of coverage provided by Veterans Affairs will vary from one beneficiary to the next based on the type and severity of the disability, employment status, income level, and specialized nursing services needed. The Department of Veterans Affairs can provide beneficiaries with more information surrounding their coverage and benefits based on these factors.

Personal Assets

Many older adults who need nursing home care will rely on personal assets to pay for room, board, and services not covered by Medicaid or other insurance plans. Savings accounts, stocks, home equity, and funds pooled by relatives are common ways residents may pay for nursing home care. 

When researching your options for nursing homes, ask each facility about its available payment options, and also about any special discounts or programs for which your loved one may be eligible. Many nursing homes are willing to work with you to help you or your loved one receive the medical care and assistance needed. 

11. What Questions Should I Ask When Researching Nursing Homes

Preparing a list of questions for prospective nursing homes can help you narrow your options so you can choose the best facility possible for yourself or your loved one. When devising your list of questions, include questions that address your highest priorities. For instance, if your loved one is highly interested in participating in social activities and events at the nursing home, ask each facility about the number and frequency of social activities it offers so you can rule out facilities that place less emphasis on these events.

Here are questions you may want to ask when researching nursing homes.

  1. What is the staff-to-patient ratio?

  2. What is your staff turnover rate?

  3. What services does your facility offer?

  4. Do you provide memory care (for patients with dementia)?

  5. Will meals be nutritious and tailored to meet my loved one’s health needs?

  6. Does your facility provide transportation?

  7. Can residents spend time outdoors whenever they like?

  8. Does your facility offer spiritual and religious services?

  9. What services are covered under the full cost of nursing home care?

  10. How do residents obtain their medications?

  11. What criteria or factors could possibly lead to discharge from the facility?

  12. Is your nursing home accredited by a major accreditation body?

  13. What are the top complaints brought up by residents and their families?

  14. Are residents allowed to have their personal belongings at the facility?

  15. What are the rules and schedules surrounding visitation from friends and family?

  16. What is included in the background checks of nursing home staff?

  17. What type of security system is in place?

While touring facilities, find opportunities to chat with other residents to gain a better feel of what life is like at the nursing home. Many residents will be forthright with their opinions and willing to share what they feel are the pros and cons of living at the facility.

12. How Do I Find Nursing Homes near Me?

You can use our nursing home directory at FindContinuingCare.com  this is a directory of senior citizen housing options that can help you or your loved one find nursing homes and other senior living communities.

Using the "Find Communities" button search for a location of interest and narrow your search using "Community Types" field. You can search for Nursing Homes in your specific area. Once you have done your research, see if the community has a red button "Request Tour/Brochure" here you can request a phone call, tour of the community or a brochure for more information.

Each nursing home listing will feature a brief description of the services available at the facility, along with photos of the inside and outside of the facility. Some listings will also feature links to the nursing homes available amenities, services, activities and more.