Senior Rehab

What Is The Difference Between Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation?

Our loved ones may require additional care and support as they enter their golden years. This is especially true if they have had a recent hospital stay or are dealing with chronic health issues. In these situations, skilled nursing and rehabilitation services may be necessary to help them recover and maintain their independence.

While these services may overlap in some ways, the intensity and focus of each type of care differ greatly. If you’re unsure which is best for you or your loved one’s needs, get in touch with a healthcare professional to understand your options.

In the meantime, let’s look at the differences between skilled nursing vs. rehab services.

What is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) provide round-the-clock medical care for individuals requiring ongoing supervision and daily assistance. These facilities are staffed by licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other medical professionals.

Some common reasons why someone may need skilled nursing include:

  • Recovering from surgery or illness
  • Managing chronic health conditions like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or heart disease
  • Receiving wound care or intravenous (IV) therapy
  • Needing rehabilitation services after a stroke, injury or hospital stay

In addition to providing medical care, skilled nursing facilities offer support with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They may also provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy services.

How do skilled nursing facilities differ from a nursing home?

Skilled nursing facilities are designed for individuals who require more intensive medical care and supervision, while nursing homes are residential centers for seniors who are medically stable but have chronic conditions or lack mobility.

In-home skilled nursing services are also available for those who prefer to receive care in their home.

What Is a Senior Rehabilitation Facility?

Rehabilitation facilities (also known as rehab centers or inpatient rehab) offer short-term care for individuals who require intensive therapy to regain function and independence after an illness, injury, or surgery. 

This type of care is typically provided by a team of healthcare professionals, including physical, occupational, and speech therapists.

Rehabilitation services focus on helping individuals improve their strength, mobility, and cognitive abilities. Some common conditions that may require rehabilitation include: 

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury or surgery
  • Amputation
  • Orthopedic surgery (e.g., hip or knee replacement)
  • Serious falls or fractures

Rehabilitation services are commonly provided in a specialized facility, although they can also be offered in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Additionally, outpatient rehabilitation services are available for individuals who do not require round-the-clock care.

Patients and their families are given training and education to ensure a safe transition back home.

Key Differences Between Skilled Nursing and Rehab Facilities

Though there is some overlap between skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, the main differences lie in the intensity of care, treatment focus, and length of stay.  

In a nutshell:

Skilled Nursing FacilityRehabilitation Facility
Intensity of Care Provides 24-hour medical and custodial care for ongoing support with everyday activities.Offer intensive therapy per day at least five days a week to aid in regaining function and independence post-health event or surgery.
Services Offered– Medical services, such as wound care, memory care, medication management and therapy. – ADL services like grooming, bathing and dressing.Intensive therapy to improve strength, mobility, and cognitive abilities, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Access to physicians and specialistsSenior patients typically see a physician one to three times a week, depending on their care plan.Typically have a dedicated team of healthcare professionals working closely with patients on a daily basis.
Length of StayOffer extended care for individuals needing ongoing supervision or medical management, typically 24 to 60 days.Offers short-term, acute care lasting from 10 to 35 days or until the individual is ready to return home or transition to a lower level of care.
CostUsually covered by Medicare or private insurance for a limited time. To qualify for Medicare coverage, your loved one must enter the facility within 30 days of being discharged from a hospital stay of at least three days.Medicare may cover stays at inpatient rehab centers, but a deductible may be required. Coverage can include shared rooms, meals, medications, nursing care, and various therapies.
StaffingCertified long-term care professionals, including physicians, therapists, and nursing assistants, supervised by registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.Therapists and registered nurses specializing in rehabilitative care.

Is Rehab Offered in a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Yes, rehabilitation can be offered in a skilled nursing facility. Some nursing homes have attached rehab facilities or offer minimal rehab support to help residents maintain their abilities. 

After completing a short-term stay at an inpatient rehab center, seniors may need to transition to a skilled nursing facility for further care before returning home. However, in-home skilled nursing services are also available for those who prefer to receive care in the comfort of their home. 

It’s important to note that not all skilled nursing facilities offer rehabilitation services. It’s always best to research and ask about the specific services offered before choosing a facility for yourself or your loved one.

If you’re uncertain about the level of care your loved one needs, consult with their healthcare team and discuss all available options. Each individual’s situation is unique, and what works for one person may not be the best fit for another.

Skilled Nursing vs. Rehab: Which One Is Right for You?

When choosing a rehab option for your senior loved one, discussing goals and needs with their doctor is crucial. The care team will typically take the lead in deciding the best facility.

Here are some factors that can help determine which option is the most appropriate:

  • Length of Stay Needed: If your loved one requires intensive therapy, a rehab facility may be the best option. If they require ongoing medical care and supervision, a skilled nursing facility may be more suitable.
  • Recovery Goals: If the main focus is on improving function and independence after an illness or injury, a rehabilitation facility will be beneficial. If the goal is to manage chronic health conditions and maintain current abilities, a skilled nursing facility may be the better choice.
  • Level of Care Needed: If your loved one requires 24/7 medical attention and assistance with daily activities, a skilled nursing facility may be necessary. If they can handle most tasks independently but need additional support with therapy, a rehabilitation facility may be sufficient.
  • Insurance Coverage and Financial Considerations: Medicare may cover a portion of the costs for both facilities,  but there may be out-of-pocket expenses as well. It’s best to discuss financial options with the care team at each facility.
  • Program Availability: All rehab locations have limited capacity, while skilled nursing locations often have more availability. It’s important to factor in wait times and bed availability when making a decision.
  • Location of the Facility: Considerations such as proximity to family, transportation options, and accessibility should be considered to ensure your loved one can receive the best care and support possible.
  • Dietary Needs: If your loved one has specific dietary restrictions or requirements, be sure to discuss this with the care team at each facility.
  • Staff: Match your loved one’s needs to the expertise of staff members at each facility. Request information on their training, certifications, and experience to ensure they can meet your loved one’s needs.
  • Hospitalization History: If your loved one has a chronic condition or has been hospitalized, choosing a facility equipped to handle their specific needs and provide appropriate care is important.

Regardless of the chosen care option, it’s essential to ensure that your loved one receives high-quality care from trained professionals. Both skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities provide specialized care to help seniors recover, regain independence, and maintain their health.

Ultimately, the best choice will depend on the individual needs and goals of your senior loved one, so it’s important to carefully consider all factors when making a decision. 

Give Your Loved Ones the Care They Deserve at One Health

Choosing between skilled nursing vs. rehab can be a life-critical decision for your senior family member. Fortunately, there are community living options that provide a combination of both services for seniors.

At Mulberry Health, we offer both skilled nursing and rehabilitation services in a compassionate, safe, and comfortable environment. Our comprehensive range of services includes independent living, short-term rehab, long-term care, outpatient therapy and memory care.

Our dedicated team of healthcare professionals is committed to providing top-quality medical care and support to help seniors live full, vibrant lives. We work closely with your loved one’s doctor to create personalized care plans that meet their unique needs.

Whatever your loved one’s care needs may be, our team at Mulberry Health is here to provide the highest level of care and support. 

See the difference Mulberry Health can make for your loved one’s care needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule a tour of our facilities. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you make the best decision for your loved one.


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