Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF): Services, Costs and Selection Guide

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Explore Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) and their services, costs and selection guide for Medicare beneficiaries seeking skilled nursing care in a comfortable environment. Sometimes called Convalescent Homes, Medicare covers inpatient stays at these facilities for qualified care.

Skilled nursing facilities (sometimes called convalescent homes), are a vital resource for older adults who require specialized care and assistance.

In this guide, we explore skilled nursing facility qualifications for admission, services provided at these locations, costs related to skilled nursing care and things to consider when selecting a convalescent home for yourself or another person.

What is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are specialized long-term care centers that provide 24-hour medical and nursing services for individuals who require ongoing medical attention or rehabilitation.

SNFs usually have a squad of experts, comprising of doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, nutritionists and other medical personnel who collaborate to devise an individualized care program for each patient. 

The most common type of skilled nursing facility is the hospital-based SNF.

This type of facility provides short-term rehabilitative care following a hospital stay or surgery as well as long-term care for those with chronic conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Hospital-based SNFs offer both inpatient and outpatient services that may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nutrition counseling.

SNFs also offer a host of luxurious amenities, such as:

  • Private rooms with flat-screen TVs
  • Dining areas
  • Recreation rooms
  • Beauty salons
  • Libraries
  • Outdoor courtyards
  • Spiritual support programs

Qualifying for admission into a skilled nursing facility depends on the individual’s condition and level of need —as determined by their physician — and whether they have Medicare coverage or Medicaid eligibility through their state government program.

Generally speaking, all patients must be deemed medically stable enough to receive treatment outside the hospital setting before being admitted into an SNF.

Skilled nursing facilities provide comprehensive medical care and rehabilitation services for individuals who require more intensive levels of care than can be provided at home.

Qualifying for skilled nursing facility care requires an evaluation by a health professional to determine the level of need, as well as other criteria such as age and financial status.

Who Qualifies for Skilled Nursing Care?

Skilled nursing care is an essential component of the medical continuum, and it can be a beneficial choice for those who need brief rehabilitative services. Patients who need physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or wound care may qualify for skilled nursing care in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF).

In order to receive SNF services, patients must meet certain criteria.

They must have been recently hospitalized and their doctor must determine that they need medically necessary rehabilitation or skilled nursing services that can only be provided in an SNF setting.

After a minimum hospital stay of three days, Medicare typically covers up to 100 days of SNF care.

What Services are Provided at a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Skilled nursing facilities provide a wide range of medical and nursing care services to help individuals maintain their health and independence. These services encompass help with everyday activities, like:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Eating
  • Mobility
  • Medication control
  • Wound treatment
  • Physical exercise sessions
  • Occupational therapy sessions
  • Language intervention exercises
  • Dietary guidance

ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) are fundamental for seniors or individuals who have experienced a sickness or injury that impedes their capability to carry out basic tasks autonomously. Skilled nurses can assist patients in performing these activities safely so they can remain independent at home or in a residential facility.

All these therapies combined enable people who need long-term healthcare assistance due to age related illnesses/injuries stay healthier longer while still being able to enjoy life at its fullest potential despite aging gracefully.

Skilled nursing facilities offer a broad array of services to assist individuals in recovering from injury or illness and sustaining their well-being. 

How Much Does Skilled Nursing Care Cost?

The cost associated with skilled nursing care can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the level of care needed and the length of stay in the facility.

It’s important to note that Medicare only pays for short-term stays in a skilled nursing facility (SNF).

SNFs only receive Medicare reimbursement for brief stays; no funds are provided to cover extended custodial or personal aid, like bathing, dressing, and helping with meals, regardless of whether it is administered by CNAs. Furthermore, Medicare does not cover the cost of lodging and meals in a SNF. This must be taken care of by the individual or their family.

Finally, it’s important to research each potential facility carefully before making a decision about where you want to receive your skilled nursing care.

Make sure you understand what services they offer and ask questions about fees so that there aren’t any surprises when it comes time to pay your bill.

Check reviews online from current residents or family members who have used the facility before – get first hand accounts about their experiences so that you know exactly what kind of quality service is being offered at each place before making a final choice about which one is right for you.

Costs linked to obtaining nursing care may be significant, so it's essential to comprehend the associated expenses before settling on a decision. When choosing a skilled nursing facility, you should consider factors like location and amenities in addition to cost.

What Should I Look For When Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility?

When selecting a skilled nursing facility, it is important to consider factors such as location and quality ratings from organizations like CMS.

When selecting a nursing home, the proximity to family and friends should be taken into account as it can greatly influence visits and access to care. Rating from organizations like CMS should be looked at when deciding on a nursing home.

It's important to look at staffing levels and availability of services offered by the facility, such as certified nurse aides, assisted living options, physical therapy programs, etc., in order to ensure that all needs can be met.

In addition to researching these details online or through word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family members, it’s essential that you visit the facility in person before making your decision. During this time you can get a feel for the atmosphere of the place, with questions like:

  • Are residents being treated with respect?
  • Is staff friendly?
  • Are common areas clean and well maintained?

The National Academies recommends visiting facilities during meal times so you can observe how meals are served and check out food quality firsthand. Enquire as to any governing body responsible for overseeing nursing homes in the vicinity prior to making a decision, so that they have been duly certified and inspected.

Finally, remember that no two skilled nursing facilities are alike—each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses depending on location, services offered, staff experience level etc. Consequently, it is vital to invest some energy investigating various choices until you discover one that best accommodates your requirements.

Skilled Nursing Facility FAQs

What percentage of US elderly are in nursing homes?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 1.4 million people aged 65 or older are living in nursing homes across the United States as of 2023. This accounts for only 5% of all elderly Americans, meaning that 95% of seniors live independently outside a nursing home setting.

At the same time, only a small fraction (less than 2%) of those aged 85 and above are residing in nursing homes.

What is the main focus in nursing homes?

The main focus in nursing homes is to create an environment that supports and encourages resident dignity, respect and self-determination. This includes providing a homelike atmosphere with

  • Meaningful activities
  • Flexible dining options
  • Individualized care plans based on residents’ needs and preferences
  • Relationships between staff and residents through open communication
  • Safety while respecting rights
  • Involvement from family members or guardians as well as the community at large

These changes help foster independence among seniors living in nursing homes so they can age with grace and dignity.

What is the average length of time a person stays in a long-term care facility?

The typical duration of residence in a long-term care facility is contingent on the person's medical requirements and objectives, with average stays ranging from several weeks to more than two years.

Generally, people can remain in these facilities for months or even years. According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, the median length of stay is around 90 days but can range from several weeks to over two years depending on an individual’s condition and their response to treatment.

What are the two major housing alternatives to nursing homes in the United States for frail elderly who have sufficient money )?

The two major housing alternatives to nursing homes in the United States for frail elderly with sufficient money are assisted living facilities and home care. Assisted living provides a safe, supportive environment while offering assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, meals and medication management.

Home care offers personal services like help around the house or medical support that can be provided by family members or professional caregivers in their own home. Both options provide tailored levels of service depending on individual needs while helping seniors maintain independence and quality of life.


As you can see, convalescent homes provide an invaluable service to those who need skilled nursing care. When selecting a convalescent home, research the quality of services provided and ensure they meet all necessary standards while taking cost into account for optimal value.

When selecting a convalescent home, it is important to ensure that the quality of services provided and cost are taken into account for optimal value. With careful consideration and proper planning, choosing a convalescent home should not be overly difficult or stressful.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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