Nursing Homes

1/5/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

It can be quite challenging to make decisions for senior care without understanding the terminology of the industry. Some people will use the terms interchangeably, adding to the confusion. For instance, someone researching long-term care for an elderly parent might encounter the words “skilled nursing facility” at one site and “nursing home” at another.

While both terms refer to a residential facility that provides 24-hour medical care, there may be subtle yet essential differences between the two. Today, “skilled nursing facility” has generally replaced the term “nursing home.” While the change might be partially attributed to the negative connotation attached to the latter term, there is also a fundamental logic behind it. These facilities have improved since the “nursing home” era of our grandparents.

Here is what you should know about the difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home.

A Brief History of the Nursing Home

Although they had different names and types of services, nursing homes have been around nearly as long as our country. In the nineteenth century, elderly individuals needing shelter found it in a place known as an almshouse. Housed alongside the homeless, insane, and intoxicated, many elderly individuals ended their days in these loathsome asylums.

As the almshouses’ population increased, officials renamed these state and local institutions, giving them comforting labels such as the Home for the Aged and Infirm (in New York City) and the Charleston Home, located in that South Carolina city.

However, name changes did little to offer a satisfactory solution to long-term care for older adults. As one early twentieth century social analyst, Harry Evans, wrote: The word “poorhouse,” as these facilities were sometimes known, stands for “hate and loathing, for it includes the composite horrors of poverty, disgrace, loneliness, humiliation, abandonment, and degradation.”

The Growth of Nursing Homes in the Mid-Twentieth Century

By the 1950s, policymakers had succeeded in putting almshouses out of business. New legislation now allowed for the creation of public institutions for those older adults requiring long-term care. And the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 helped boost the growth of the nursing home industry. Public and private nursing-home residents began receiving federal support for their assistance. And between the years 1960 and 1976, the number of nursing homes grew exponentially.

The Skilled Nursing Facility of 2021

It’s not surprising that the term “nursing home” might suggest an institution straight out of a Charles Dickens novel; especially given its association with its immediate predecessors, the almshouses and poorhouses, in which the elderly were sent to spend their remaining days. Even more recently, terms such as rest homes, old people’s homes, and convalescent homes have been hanging on as descriptors of facilities for the residential care of the elderly.

Today’s skilled nursing facility is a far cry from the antiquated almshouses of the long past and a step up from the nursing homes of just a few years ago. The care in these facilities is provided by licensed health professionals that include registered nurses and physical, speech, and occupational therapists. Many also have counselors to provide psychological care. Examples of services include:

  • wound care
  • injections
  • physical therapy
  • intravenous therapy
  • catheter care
  • vital signs monitoring
  • counseling services

Residents with dementia receive specialized care from registered nurses, licensed practitioners, and aides. And the facilities manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, respiratory issues, and heart conditions.

More Than Just Nursing Care

While modern skilled nursing facilities provide a wide range of medical support, they also offer the benefits of 24-hour supervision, planned activities, help with daily tasks, customized meals, and individual attention from a highly-trained staff.

Whether an older adult requires short-term rehabilitation or long-term care, the skilled nursing facility of 2021 can provide it in a home-like environment.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff