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How Long Can a Person Stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility?

There are so many terms that are used to describe senior care and housing environments in the long-term care industry – it can be overwhelming for seniors and their families. Some terms are used interchangeably, even if they should not be, which makes it all the more confusing. Recognizing and understanding the terminology used in the senior care industry can help families understand their options and identify the support services that make the most sense for them.

One of the most confusing terms for families is “skilled nursing care.” Is skilled nursing care a step up from standard nursing care? What are examples of skilled nursing care? Or is it something entirely different? Do all seniors need skilled nursing care? Are skilled nursing facilities different than other senior care environments? Understanding the answers to these questions can help families recognize the type of care their loved one actually needs and how to find it.

What Is Skilled Nursing Care?

Skilled nursing care is defined as a high level of medical care that is provided under the direction and supervision of licensed health care professionals; this can include registered nurses and/or speech, physical or occupational therapists. So, when does an older adult need skilled nursing care? Skilled nursing services can be needed over a short-term period following an illness or injury, or skilled nursing care may be required over a longer period for older adults who have a chronic medical condition. Skilled nursing examples include services such as IV therapy, injections, wound care, physical therapy, catheter care or monitoring of medical equipment or vital signs. It is important to note that these services are specialized and are not included in senior living environments, such as independent living or assisted living.

Seniors can receive skilled nursing care in any setting for any duration. Depending on circumstances and the length of care needed, skilled nursing care can be covered by MedicareMedicaid, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or private health insurance. Skilled nursing facilities are regulated by the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). To be certified by CMS and the DPH, skilled nursing communities must meet strict criteria and are subject to periodic inspections to ensure quality standards are being met.

Here are the answers to some common questions related to skilled nursing care and skilled nursing facilities:

What is a common reason for admission to a skilled nursing facility?

In general, older adults who move into a skilled nursing facility are recovering following an injury, acute illness or surgery. However, a skilled nursing care environment may also be the right choice for seniors with chronic conditions that require a high level of medical supervision.

What is the average length of stay for someone within a skilled nursing facility?

By definition, skilled nursing facilities are transitional care facilities. This means that care is provided with the goal that the senior will receive the care and be able to move on; it is not a permanent living situation. Based on data from the Skilled Nursing News, the average length of stay in skilled nursing facilities is between 20 and 38 days.

What is the purpose of a skilled nursing facility?

The principal goal of skilled nursing care and skilled nursing facilities is to assist seniors in their recovery process and support their unique journey so they can safely return to their own living space and their own routines.

How Long Can a Person Stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility?

When a senior has faced a serious obstacle in their aging journey, such as a stroke, a fall or even a serious case of pneumonia, it is common for health care professionals to recommend that senior be transferred to a skilled nursing facility, like Greenfield Rehabilitation & Health Care Center. This step is often for the safety of the senior, to ensure they are strong and mobile enough to manage their daily lives with the level of independence to which they are accustom. 

One question every senior or family facing an experience with skilled nursing care wants to answer is – how long can a person stay in a skilled nursing facility? Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. There are a variety of factors that go into play when considering how long a senior should stay in skilled nursing care. To begin with, for seniors using Medicare, the current requirement to move to a skilled nursing facility is a three-night stay in a hospital. Once this requirement is met, some Medicare Advantage plans may cover the first 20 days but require a daily copay after the first 20 days. Traditional Medicare with a secondary form of insurance will pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing care. 

Outside of cost and ability to pay, length of stay in skilled nursing care depends on several factors. Making progress in skilled nursing care depends on the following:

  • Rate of healing
  • Level of support
  • Senior’s ability to advocate for themselves
  • Age at the time of entering skilled nursing care
  • Willingness to participate in therapy activities
  • Level of pain and ability to handle pain
  • Level of health when entering a skilled nursing facility
  • Willingness to eat healthy, get proper rest and follow other medical recommendations

To ensure a loved one returns to his or her home environment as soon as possible and as healthy as possible, it is helpful to regularly check in with team members at the skilled nursing facility to understand the progress being made and to find out how family and friends can support the senior on the skilled nursing care journey.

About Greenfield Rehabilitation & Health Care Center

Greenfield Rehabilitation & Health Care Center has provided senior care to Iowa’s Adair County for nearly 50 years. Offering compassionate, personalized care focused on each resident’s intellectual and emotional health, our community’s services include skilled nursing care, assisted living and rehabilitation.

Want to set up a tour at Greenfield? We would love to see you or to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today!