Placing a parent or other loved one in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), commonly called a nursing home, can be one of the most challenging decisions anyone can make. Yet the need for SNFs is rapidly expanding. According to the federal Administration on Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of persons over the age of 65 has increased almost 13 times since the onset of the 20th century. In addition, the average age of America’s elderly population has increased nearly 40% over the past few generations, with the average life expectancy now being 78.2 years of age.

The Difference Between Skilled Nursing and Other forms of Elder Care

Skilled Nursing Facilities are intended for persons who require around-the-clock medical monitoring as well as assistance with daily living functions. Like assisted living facilities, SNFs provide all meals, laundry service and room cleaning; however, SNFs are categorically different from assisted living residences as they furnish a much higher level of custodial help and medical care for those with late-stage Alzheimer’s or with serious and debilitating medical conditions. Nursing homes range in size from small, residential facilities with as few as eight beds to much larger facilities that house several hundred residents.

SNFs have Registered Nurses (RNs) or nurse practitioners on duty 24 hours a day as well as an on-call medical doctor who can be reached whenever needed. RNs dispense medications, monitor vital signs, oversee oxygen delivery, and ensure that all physician orders are followed.

Other trained staff members help patients with showering, using the bathroom, dressing, grooming, and just getting around. Many SNFs also have onsite physical, occupational, and speech therapists to help individuals increase their mobility & regain functions after a stroke, accident, surgery or debilitating illness. Many SNFs are especially equipped and staffed to care for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of serious memory loss.

The Importance of an Initial On-Site Visit

It is critically important that you thoroughly look into what is available in your community. Perhaps start by using online resources. Doing this kind of comparative research should enable you to narrow your list down to six facilities or fewer, after which you should arrange for on-site visits.

Most nursing homes have a staff person who focuses on community relations and attracting new residents. This individual will be happy to give you a tour of the home, answer your questions, respond to your specific concerns, and discuss financing.

The value of on-site visits cannot be overemphasized. Photos don’t always give a full picture and can’t always capture the atmosphere of a nursing home. Visits also often give you the opportunity to speak with current residents who can offer personal input not available elsewhere. If you are invited to stay for a meal or activity, by all means do so, as this will provide a deeper understanding of the social structure and general feel of the facility during the normal daily routine your loved one will become part of.

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