Nursing homes are highly regulated for quality care and treatment of elderly individuals diagnosed with severe physical health conditions and/or mental disabilities.
Length of Stay for Nursing Home Patients
One in four people admitted to nursing homes stay about three months or less. Many seniors who stay for a short time typically need rehabilitation or terminal (end-of-life) care. About half of senior home residents live at least one year in the nursing home, with 21% living there for nearly five years. Many residents who stay for a longer time enjoy improved health and well-being.
Risk Factors for Admission
Some seniors are at greater risk of needing nursing home care:
- Age. The older the senior, the more likely they are to be admitted to a nursing home. For example, about 15% of seniors 85 years and older live in nursing homes, compared with just 1.1% of seniors 65-74 years of age.
- Low income.
- Poor family support. Seniors who are widowed, divorced, or never married, and childless are more likely to live in a nursing home.
- Low social activity.
- Functional or mental difficulties.
- Race/ethnicity. Caucasian seniors are more likely than others to be admitted to a nursing home.
- Geriatric syndromes. Patients experiencing frailty, frequent falls, pressure sores, and dementia are at increased risk of nursing home admission.
Characteristics of Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are equipped to offer medical services similar to those provided in hospitals after surgery, illness, or other sudden medical problems. Medical services vary significantly among nursing homes, but may include:
- Skilled nursing care
- Orthopedic care (for muscle, joint, and bone problems)
- Breathing treatments
- Post-surgery support
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
- Intravenous therapy and antibiotics
- Wound care
Nursing homes may also provide:
- Nutritional counseling
- Social work services
- Recreational activities
- Respite care
- Hospice care
- End-of-life care
Before choosing a nursing home, it’s important to know the goals of care in a nursing home and set reasonable expectations for the stay. Nursing homes are not hospitals, and seniors may not receive the same quality of testing and evaluations provided by physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals at a medical facility. Nursing homes:
- DON’T have in-house pharmacies
- DON’T offer laboratory services or radiology services in their facility
- DO contract with third-party providers in the community for specialized medical services (care is tailored to the unique needs of the patient)
Questions to Ask When Searching for a Nursing Home
If a loved one needs to be admitted to a nursing home, family members should consider the following questions before making a decision:
- Do residents have enough space and privacy in the bedrooms?
- What recreational activities are offered?
- What is the staff to resident ratio?
- Are the key staff members employed part-time or full-time?
- What is the staff turnover rate?
- How close is the nursing home to the resident’s family members?
- What kind of food is served?
- What services are provided and how much do they cost?
When helping a senior transition to a nursing home, it’s important for family members to be closely involved to ensure seniors don’t feel abandoned or betrayed.