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Skilled Nursing Facilities Vs. Residential Care Facilities For The Elderly

Skilled Nursing Facilities Vs. Residential Care Facilities For The Elderly


There may come a time when an older family member may need full-time, long-term medical care to assist in their day-to-day life, which could mean a move into a skilled nursing home or residential care facility. In 2015, more than 1.3 million people in the United States were living in the country’s 15,600 nursing homes. 

Both facilities provide care and support 24 hours a day. But what is the difference and what is best for your elder? The basic difference between the two facilities is that a nursing home always has a qualified nurse onsite to provide medical care. We will do a deeper dive into the more detailed differences you can base your decision on.

What Are Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes are also known as skilled nursing facilities because they provide a higher level of medical and personal care to residents 24 hours a day than residential care facilities. They are prepared to support people long-term who struggle with daily life or have specific medical conditions and complex needs, such as dementia, cancer, severe physical disabilities, or mental illness. 

Sometimes, their stay is temporary, shortly after they have been discharged from the hospital and in need of a nursing home’s rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy. 

Constant supervision and treatment are given by registered nurses and qualified care assistants, who are trained to identify symptoms and any changes to each resident’s conditions. Daily support and care also include a schedule of three meals a day and assistance with everyday activities. Because of this, nursing homes can be more expensive. 

What Are Residential Care Facilities?

While there are many similarities between residential care facilities and nursing homes, the main difference is that there is no nursing care, and residents do not need medical care. There are some, however, that offer nursing through special care facilities or visiting health professionals. Personal services that are provided 24 hours a day at these facilities include washing/bathing, dressing, or eating. 

Residents, staying here either short- or long-term, are mainly older adults who cannot live independently and are in need of:

  • Personal hygiene management
  • Administering medication
  • Mobile support
  • Help with toileting.
  • Assistance with a physical or learning disability, or any mental health issues

Staff at residential care facilities often are not qualified to provide medical care. In addition to the above services, they may also get residents socially involved in physical activities, events and parties, or field trips. Because there are no qualified nurses on staff, the cost of living is much lower than that at a nursing home. 

How Should I Protect My Loved One in a Nursing Home?

Most elderly care facilities in the United States are monitored and provide the required services, but, unfortunately, abuse and neglect are too common in the industry – either discovered by the resident’s family or during an inspection by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which finds tens of thousands of problems each year. 

If your older loved one has been the victim of abuse as a resident in an elderly care facility, which has not provided the care we discussed above, contact Joel Bryant, the California nursing home abuse attorney, today.