What’s the difference between a skilled nursing facility and senior rehabilitation?
A common area of confusion for those seeking and evaluating care options for a loved one is the difference between skilled nursing and senior rehabilitation. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and rehab facilities offer different services and carry different costs.
In a nutshell, rehab facilities provide short-term, in-patient rehabilitative care. Skilled nursing facilities are for individuals who require a higher level of medical care than can be provided in an assisted living community. Some of the misunderstanding arises from the fact that skilled nursing facilities are often used for short-term rehabilitation stays. That’s the quick explanation, but let’s dig in a little deeper.
Short-term rehabilitation is a sometimes necessary transition after a hospital stay following surgery, accident or illness that prepares a patient to get back to their highest level of independence. These facilities are not considered permanent residential establishments. When a patient leaves a rehab facility, they may return home and receive in-home assistance, or they may seek a nursing home or other permanent residential options like a senior living community.
Rehab facilities are regulated and certified by the state and federal government. They must also meet certain state and local regulations. Staying at these facilities is covered by Medicare for up to 100 days.
The staff of a rehab facility may include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, vocational nurses, speech pathologists, physical therapists, audiologists, a medical director and other specialized medical staff as needed.
Some of the conditions that may require care at a rehab facility include stroke, surgery, acute illness, infection and general wound care. These conditions may require physical therapy, administration of antibiotics, intravenous injections of medication or other medical care.
Skilled nursing facility
It’s helpful to know that skilled nursing describes the type of service offered. Skilled nursing is a level of care that must be provided by trained individuals, such as registered nurses (RNs) and physical, speech and occupational therapists.
The need for skilled nursing services doesn’t automatically require placement in a residence, because skilled nursing services are available in a variety of senior care settings, which may include one’s home.
A licensed physician supervises each patient’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Physical and occupational therapists can also be on staff to assist with other residents.
These services can be necessary over the short term for rehabilitation from an illness or injury, or they may be required over the long term for patients who need care on a frequent or around-the-clock basis due to a chronic medical condition. Examples of skilled nursing services include wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, physical therapy, and monitoring of vital signs and medical equipment.