What is a “nursing home?”


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Today’s topic is all about nursing homes. What are they and what are they not?

I hear families use this term all the time. They say, oh yeah, I moved Mom into a nursing home. And then I say, okay, well where did you move her? And they tell me about some building. And I say, that’s not a nursing home that is assisted living or independent living. That’s adult daycare. People think everything is a nursing home. And I don’t think this is a professional thing. I don’t think professionals are doing this piece. But people keep calling everything a nursing home, or a skilled nursing facility, as we call it in geriatrics, is a medic.

It is usually a medical facility. It’s usually pretty hospital-like and they have short-term stay rehab. Some places have long-term stay units, But people who live there or stay there for short-term rehab usually have more medical-related issues than people who live in assisted living. So in conclusion, if you’re talking about a nursing home, you’re really talking about a skilled nursing facility, which is a specific designation for a senior living community. So that’s different than saying that your loved one lives in assisted living or personal care or independent living. And a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home are in the same phrase.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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