The term “nursing home” has become generic over
the years, and it is used to define all facilities from a rest home to an
acute care hospital. The
truth is that this muddled meaning can be confusing to those caregivers
trying to decide on a facility for their loved one.
The main goal of a nursing home is to care for those who are
recovering from an illness (short term) or to provide supervision for
those with chronic medical problems (long term).
Nursing homes can be broken down into three categories.
They are intermediate care facilities, skilled nursing
facilities, and skilled nursing facilities for special disabilities.
An intermediate care facility(ICF) must provide at least eight
hours of nursing supervision per day.
It generally caters to patients who are mobile and need less care.
At the least, an ICF provides medical, pharmacy, and dietary
The skilled nursing facility(SNF) must provide
24-hour nursing supervision. This
is most likely what people mean when they say “nursing home.”
Normally those who are incapacitated, and need long- or short-term
care, stay in one of these facilities.
In addition to the services that would be provided by an ICF, the
SNF will also assist in daily living activities such as eating, bathing,
dressing, and walking.
All nursing home facilities are required to be
licensed by their state. If you come across one that isn’t, avoid it.
A state inspector visits each home at least once a year to make
sure that it is complying with state standards for care and services.
This passing grade is a requirement in order for these places to be
reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid.
Many nursing homes are run as businesses for a profit
by individuals or corporations, and may even be a part of a chain of
nursing homes. Others are run
as non-profit companies and are sponsored by religious or charitable
groups or by government agencies.
One requirement for all patients in a nursing home is
that they be under the care of a physician.
The reason is that only a doctor can evaluate and prescribe a
program of medical care for a patient’s well being.
That is beyond the scope of a nurse’s responsibility.
In fact, a nursing home cannot authorize any restraints,
medication, medical treatment , change in diet or therapy without a
A complete physical exam before entering a nursing home may
help in evaluating what treatments are needed, the duration of a loved
one’s stay, and the potential for rehabilitation.