What is the Difference between a Skilled Nursing Facility and a Nursing Home?

Difference between a Skilled Nursing Facility and a Nursing Home

There is a significant difference between the kind of help you need if you are recovering from stroke compared to the assistance you need with eating, dressing, and bathing.

A skilled nursing facility is a place where people can go if they need medical care in some cases like recovering from stroke. On the other hand, a nursing home is where people often go if they need high levels of assistance with everyday and nonmedical living tasks.

If you look more into nursing homes, you will learn that they are often called skilled nursing facilities or simply SNFs. However, this is usually a very misleading term. The confusion even becomes more complicated if you also encounter the concept of skilled nursing at home.

To clear up any misunderstandings, read on to know the real difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home.

What is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

A skilled nursing facility or SNF includes non-medical assistance, meal preparation, and senior care. These facilities may also have specialized staff like rehabilitation specialists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists, just to mention a few.

These are medical professionals that don’t often work in nursing homes. Skilled nursing care is usually given to rehabilitation patients that don’t need long-term care services. It is a form of care also known as post-acute care as it is typically provided after an emergency hospital stay.

A skilled nursing facility is a source of transitional care between personal assistance and a hospital. Most of the time, staying in skilled nursing facilities is short-term and defined in nature.

The care provided at skilled nursing facilities is different from that given in nursing homes. One of the main differentiating factors between skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes lies in the people who provide the care. In nursing homes, non-medical workers typically provide custodial care while any of the following medical professionals can provide care in skilled nursing facilities:

  • Medical doctors
  • RNs or registered nurses
  • Vocational nurses
  • Speech pathologists
  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Audiologists

For instance, an elderly man fell, suffered from broken bones, and ended up in the hospital. After the completion of immediate medical intervention after several days, the person no longer has to stay in the hospital. But, he may still need specialized wound care and rehabilitation services that they won’t be able to get at home. The patient could be transitioned to a skilled nursing facility then.

What is a Nursing Home?


A lot of people use nursing home when describing most living situations that offer assisted living or medical assistance. A nursing home, after all, is a very popular term that has already been used for many years. In fact, the definition of nursing homes is pretty general. A nursing home is a place for those people who don’t have to stay in a hospital but cannot also be taken care of at home. Many nursing homes have skilled nurses and nursing aids but remember that this is not necessarily a requirement.

It means that not every nursing home offers their patients with skilled medical services on a daily basis. It means that not all nursing homes can be considered as skilled nursing facilities. A nursing home usually helps their residents with ADLs or activities of daily living such as getting in and out of bed, using the bathroom, dressing, and eating. This kind of non-medical or custodial care can be the only form of care that you can get during your stay in a nursing home. The Medicare doesn’t cover this kind of care since it could be provided to you by a non-professional staff member instead of a skilled nurse.

Daily Non-Medical Care in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes offer daily care to their residents and there are also some residents that are more independent compared to others. Oftentimes, you can live in nursing homes even if you need to get medical care on a frequent basis such as dialysis twice every week. It is because you still have the physical ability to go to your appointments provided that you have available mode of transportation.

Most of the time, family members can aid with the transportation. If not, you can arrange third party services that might incur some out of pocket expenses. Nursing home personnel can offer meals, clean the room, do the laundry, administer your medicines, and lead different activities like crafts, exercise classes, and scenic tours outside the nursing home.

Majority of the care comes from nurse aides. A doctor might be part of the staff but in general, this is not something that you should expect. Federal law generally requires that there should be a registered nurse present in nursing homes certified by Medicaid and Medicare at least 8 hours straight in one day and 7 days a week. There should also be a licensed nurse, either an LPN or RN, available 24 hours a day.

Nursing home can be paid out of pocket although it might get a bit expensive. Most people can try estate planning for a minimum of 5 years before they decide to enter a nursing home. They can also spend down all of their assets for paying for the care until they become eligible for Medicaid.

Should You Choose a Nursing Home or a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Now that you already know the differences between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home, it is time for you to decide which one will best meet your specific needs.

Nursing homes are a better option for you if you need assistance with ADLs due to physical, mental, or emotional problems. If you can receive care from a non-professional staff member, there is no need for you to get medical care from the skilled nursing facility. But again, take note that Medicare doesn’t cover this form of non-medical care.

If you need therapy, skilled nursing, or any other medical services, there might be a need for you to look for a nursing home or a hospital that has a skilled nursing facility. People who require daily services from the staff members of a skilled nursing facility to make their condition better or need assistance to maintain their current condition or prevent it from getting worse might want to talk to their healthcare provider if they can live in a skilled nursing facility. Skilled care may cover the following:

  • Care from the skilled nurses
  • A shared room
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech pathology
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical supplies

Take note of these differences of skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes to choose the right one for you.