What is the difference between skilled nursing and rehabilitation?

image of senior using rehabilitation equipment at sunnyside manor

Get answers to frequently asked questions about skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and senior care options.

image of senior using rehabilitation equipment at sunnyside manorWhen you’re helping a senior loved one plan for “what’s next” after a hospital stay, there are a lot of questions about how – and where – your loved one will have the best recovery.

A physician may recommend ongoing care or rehabilitation at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. But, what does that actually mean? What is the difference between skilled nursing and rehabilitation? Is a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center the same as a “nursing home?”

Read on to get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the differences between skilled nursing and rehabilitation, what services Medicare covers, and how to know which kind of care your loved one needs.

Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation: What’s the Difference?

The terms skilled nursing and rehabilitation are sometimes used interchangeably because they are often provided in the same location: a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. However, skilled nursing and rehabilitation are two different services. (You may still hear skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers called “nursing homes,” but this is an old-fashioned term that does not reflect today’s modern options.)

Skilled nursing refers to a type or level of care that is provided by licensed nurses (overseen by a physician) and is more intensive than what may be provided in assisted living. Skilled nursing services may include intravenous (IV) medication or nutrition, advanced wound care, and medication and medical condition monitoring. Skilled nursing is usually long-term.

Rehabilitation refers to services intended to help someone regain health and independence after an illness, injury, surgery, or major health event like a stroke or heart attack. Rehabilitation may include some skilled nursing services, along with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Rehabilitation is short-term.

Does Medicare Cover Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation? What About Assisted Living?

Medicare Part A will cover up to 100 days of care in a Medicare certified skilled nursing and rehabilitation center when ordered by a physician after a three-day hospital admission.

Generally, Medicare coverage includes the full cost for covered services for the first 20 days. For days 21–100, Medicare pays all but a daily coinsurance for covered services. (Source: medicare.gov, 2023.)

It’s important to be aware that coverage can vary, especially if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. Be sure to check your individual plan. Long term care insurance may cover what Medicare does not, including assisted living services. Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation at Sunnyside Manor accepts most major insurances. Please contact us for details.

How Do You Know Whether Your Loved One Needs Skilled Nursing, Rehabilitation, Or Assisted Living?

A stay in a rehabilitation center will be prescribed by a doctor. A doctor may write an order for a short-term rehabilitative stay in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation residence when a senior is well enough to leave the hospital, but not quite ready to meet the demands of home. The length of a short-term stay can vary from a few days to few months.

Short-term rehabilitation helps seniors restore their strength and independence so that they can return home to a private residence or a senior living community. For example, after a hospital stay for a stroke, a doctor might write an order for rehabilitation including physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy, as well new medications that require monitoring and adjustment.

Read real-life examples of how Sunnyside Manor residents get stronger, sooner in our skilled nursing and rehabilitation neighborhood. 

A skilled nursing and rehabilitation center can also be a long-term residence for seniors who require round-the-clock access to medical care. Long term skilled nursing may be the best option to stabilize or slow the progression of a chronic illness, while maintaining quality of life.

At Sunnyside Manor, our skilled nursing and rehabilitation neighborhood is designed to meet the different needs of short-term rehabilitation and long-term skilled nursing residents. Separate lounge areas and dining rooms maximize privacy and comfort for residents, so that everyone feels supported.

Assisted living is ideal for seniors who would benefit from assistance with non-medical tasks like dressing, bathing, and taking medication, while living in a residential community with meals and social programming. At Sunnyside Manor, we offer assisted living, memory care, and award-winning skilled nursing and rehabilitation. We are by your side, every step of the way.

Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor

When you have questions about senior living, we are here to help. Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, begin with our “Getting Started” guide. Please call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier family-owned senior living community. The community features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.

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