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Nursing Homes: Discover Your Long-Term Care Options

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"How can I find nursing homes near me?" That is one of the most common questions that people ask when they're planning for long-term care for themselves or their loved ones. And it's an important question to ask. After all, you want to be sure that you're selecting the right type of facility—one that's able to deliver high-quality care in a comfortable environment. Fortunately, we can help you do that by answering some of the most common questions about nursing homes.

Of all the different types of senior living facilities, nursing homes generally offer the highest level of long-term care. That's because nursing homes are typically for people who are no longer able to live independently at home or in assisted living settings. Nursing home residents often have greater physical and medical needs and require round-the-clock care.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country in 2014. So it's likely that you have a lot of options near you. Plus, it's great to have so many choices because it means that you can select the nursing home that is going to best support you or your loved one.

Learn more about nursing homes by checking out the following sections. They provide helpful information and answers to important questions like:

What Is a Skilled Nursing Facility, and Is It Different From a Nursing Home?

Many people in your situation wonder, "Just what are nursing homes, exactly?" Well, when people talk about nursing homes, they are likely referring to state-certified long-term care facilities. Those facilities help take care of seniors who are no longer able to live independently and require varying levels of assistance with daily living activities, in addition to medical care. Often, the terms nursing home, skilled nursing facility (SNF) and nursing facility (NF) are used interchangeably. However, from a legal and insurance standpoint, there are some subtle differences between the terms.

Nursing home is an overarching term that generally refers to nursing facilities (NFs), intermediate care facilities (ICFs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and non-certified nursing homes. NFs provide varying levels of custodial and medical care to their residents. And since a lot of nursing facilities offer both intermediate and skilled care, ICFs and SNFs usually operate under the same roof.

The reality is that most nursing home residents require intermediate or custodial care. Those residents need some level of supervision, need help with daily living activities, and may require help with getting around (e.g., out of bed and into a wheelchair). Those people would likely be able to reside in nursing facilities or intermediate care facilities. However, residents who have high-level medical needs and require 24-hour direct care will need the services of skilled nursing facilities.

In many cases, skilled nursing care is considered short-term or rehabilitative and residents often return to intermediate care after the skilled care unit has treated them. Even though the different types of units or facilities exist under the same roof, it's important for nursing homes to differentiate between intermediate and skilled nursing care because they're certified based on the number of beds that they have dedicated to each service level. Plus, your Medicare or Medicaid coverage will be based, at least partly, upon the type of care that you're receiving.

Non-certified nursing homes also exist. Those types of facilities are not state-certified, but they're usually licensed or inspected by a state agency. Non-certified nursing homes are typically run by charitable organizations, and Medicare and Medicaid won't cover the costs of staying at them. So, for the purposes of this page, when we refer to a nursing home, nursing facility, or skilled nursing facility, we are referring to state-certified long-term nursing homes.

When comparing skilled nursing facility vs. nursing home options, you'll often find that most state-certified nursing homes offer skilled nursing services. It's important to assess your (or your loved one's) needs in order to ensure that you're choosing a nursing home that offers the proper level of care. Many nursing homes offer both custodial and skilled nursing care, so as your needs change, the nursing home can still meet them without having to move you or your loved one to another facility.

What Services Do Nursing Homes Offer?

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As you research local nursing homes, you'll find differences between them. Nursing homes provide meals and offer daily assistance with activities like bathing, dressing, eating, getting around, and taking medications. But the similarities often end there. For example, you may be able to choose between private and shared rooms. Additionally, some homes serve meals in the residents' rooms and others have large dining halls where all of the meals are served.

Nursing home sizes are also quite varied. They range from as small as 10 residents to as large as over 100. In many homes, you'll find common areas for socializing, watching TV, playing games, and taking part in other events and activities. You also may encounter a wide variety of nursing staff. Depending on the number of residents and available services at a particular home, the staff may include:

  • Certified nursing assistants (CNAs)
  • Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)
  • Registered nurses (RNs)
  • Physicians
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Dietitians or nutritionists
  • Laboratory technicians and technologists
  • X-ray technicians

Skilled nursing facilities and those with special care units tend to have higher levels of skilled staff. Specifically, they have licensed nurses on-shift 24 hours a day. Plus, some nursing homes have specialty care units for:

In addition, you can find convalescent homes and care units, which are also known as inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs). IRFs provide a comfortable environment—to patients of any age—and offer the care that's needed to recover from long-term illnesses and medical procedures. The idea is that those patients will rehabilitate and eventually return home.

How Much Does a Nursing Home Cost?

Creating a budget is one of the most important steps to take when planning for long-term care for yourself or your loved one. You'll need to have an idea of nursing home cost per day, month, or year in order to make sure that you're able to appropriately cover the expenses. According to a Genworth cost of care survey, in 2016, the daily, monthly, and yearly median costs for shared or private rooms in nursing homes were:

  • Per day: $225 or $253
  • Per month: $6,844 or $7,698
  • Per year: $82,125 or $92,378

Depending on the state where you or your loved one will be receiving care, your nursing home cost could be substantially lower or higher than the national median. To help give you a better idea of the variance in state-to-state pricing, check out the least and most expensive states below (based on the Genworth survey). The lists include the median monthly rates for shared or private rooms in 2016.

The 10 least expensive states were:

  1. Oklahoma: $4,410 or $5,019
  2. Texas: $4,502 or $5,931
  3. Missouri: $4,730 or $5,264
  4. Louisiana: $4,867 or $5,139
  5. Arkansas: $4,905 or $5,862
  6. Kansas: $5,201 or $5,627
  7. Iowa: $5,536 or $6,083
  8. Illinois: $5,597 or $6,235
  9. Utah: $5,627 or $6,388
  10. Nebraska: $5,627 or $6,403

The 10 most expensive states and regions were:

  1. Alaska: $24,333 or $24,820
  2. Connecticut: $12,364 or $13,383
  3. Massachusetts: $11,254 or $12,015
  4. New York: $10,988 or $11,330
  5. North Dakota: $10,905 or $10,773
  6. Hawaii: $10,798 or $11,776
  7. District of Columbia: $10,114 or $11,421
  8. New Jersey: $9,885 or $11,153
  9. New Hampshire: $9,733 or $10,281
  10. Delaware: $9,581 or $9,901

As you develop your (or your loved one's) budget for long-term care, you'll also want to consider future nursing home rates since care costs have been slowly growing over the years. The Genworth survey says that based on historical growth rates, it's estimated that, by 2026, the national median for a shared room could be $9,198 per month. And by 2036, that number could be $12,361 per month.

Does Medicare Cover Nursing Home Costs?

Although Medicare can cover the costs of convalescent or rehabilitative care after a hospital stay, it typically doesn't cover the room and board costs of staying at a long-term nursing home. However, there are other costs that Medicare can cover while you're in long-term care. They include doctors' visits, hospital care, and medical supplies and equipment.

To get help for covering the room and board costs of staying at a nursing home, you or your loved one can apply for Medicaid. The plans vary from state to state, so eligibility depends on your state's requirements and coverage options. Additionally, not all nursing homes will accept Medicaid payments. Even for those that do, there may only be a certain number of Medicaid beds available.

Most people who enter nursing homes begin by paying for their expenses out of pocket. In fact, state plans like Medicaid require you to do so because your state will assess your savings and assets when determining your eligibility for coverage. It's advisable for you or your loved one to meet with a financial advisor or estate planner in order to decide how to best manage your savings, investments, and assets prior to applying for Medicaid or moving into a nursing home.

Aside from Medicaid and personal financial resources, there are other ways to pay for nursing home care. For example, check with your state's Department of Health and Human Services to see if any state plans are available in addition to Medicaid. And if you or your loved one served in the military, then check with your state veterans' affairs office to uncover other funding sources.