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How Do I Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility?

How Do I Choose A Skilled Nursing Facility Main

Key Summary

When you’re ready to leave the hospital but not well enough to go home, a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) is often the best place to stay. Learn how to choose the right SNF for you.

When it’s time to leave the hospital following a surgical procedure, injury, stroke or another major medical incident, the next step is often to move to a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). These communities provide the care you require over a relatively short period of time before you’re ready to go home.

When searching for a Skilled Nursing Facility for yourself or a loved one, there are multiple factors to consider. Our aim today is to provide you with the information you need to make the right choice, to list some key factors to look for when choosing a SNF, and to explore the benefits of SNFs. We're here to point you in the right direction.

What Can You Expect from a Skilled Nursing Facility?

A Skilled Nursing Facility is an in-patient rehabilitation and medical treatment center. The SNF provides 24/7 access to doctors, LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), RNs (Registered Nurses), physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists and other trained professionals who assist residents during the transitional period between a hospital stay and going home.

At Skilled Nursing Facilities, trained professionals administer medication, assist with IV therapies, provide physical therapy, monitor vital signs, and help residents with basic daily tasks, including dressing, bathing, and transport. The typical stay at a SNF is 28 days or less.

For several reasons, a SNF may be the right choice for you or your loved one, at this time. You can learn more in our article “What are the Top Benefits of Skilled Nursing"?

What Makes a Good Skilled Nursing Facility?

There are a wide variety of reasons why certain Skilled Nursing Facilities provide better care and amenities than others. While researching SNFs, there are many factors to keep in mind. Here are some signs of a good Skilled Nursing Facility as outlined by the National Institute on Aging, and many we have found to be the most helpful.

Consider Your Wants and Needs First

Whether you’re recovering from an accident, a stroke, a heart attack or surgery, you have unique and specific medical and personal requirements. Make sure the SNF you choose can provide you with the right kind of care for your particular situation. Even if the first SNF you consider seems to be the ideal choice, it’s a good idea to check out a few others before making your final decision. (Factors such as location are also paramount. Is the SNF within reasonable driving distance for the people in your life who are most likely to visit you?)

If you’re determining how to choose a Skilled Nursing Facility for someone with dementia, certain SNFs provide specialized assistance for these residents. Others are better equipped to assist stroke survivors, or someone in need of physical therapy following an injury. This is why the perfect SNF for you might not be right for someone else. The more information you have about a particular SNF, the more informed you will be when you make your decision.

Visit the Skilled Nursing Facility

Brochures, websites and referrals are all very helpful, but you wouldn’t buy a home without visiting the property first —and probably more than once, right? For a few weeks at least, a Skilled Nursing Facility will be your home, or the home of someone you love. There’s no substitute for visiting in person, taking a tour and experiencing for yourself what a particular SNF is all about.

Visit Again!

A second, unscheduled visit can be just as illuminating as your initial trip to a SNF. Pop in during regular visiting hours, explain you’d like a tour or ask if you can simply walk around the grounds (without invading anyone’s privacy or going into restricted areas, of course).

Ask questions during your visit. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. If you’re uncertain about something or you need clarification about what types of care a SNF provides, ask.

Carefully Read Your Contract

Carefully read your contract and have a trusted friend or loved one peruse the document as well—or better yet, ask a lawyer to give it a read.

What to Look for When Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

The vast majority of Skilled Nursing Facilities maintain high standards, are up to code, and are all about providing the best professional medical care for residents. Unfortunately, not every SNF meets those standards.

When visiting a SNF, keep your senses peeled for these Skilled Nursing Facility red flags:

  • Evidence of poor hygiene.
  • Unpleasant odors, including urine and vomit.
  • Staff members that either refuse to answer your questions or deflect them by changing the subject.
  • Inadequate meals.
  • Signs of dehydration and malnourishment among patients.
  • Patients with unexplained bruises or welts.
  • A team of staff that appears to be too small for the size of the facility.
  • A lack of signage about the facility being up to code in accordance with all state regulations.

Find a Skilled Nursing Facility in Your Area

To recap: when you’re leaving the hospital but not quite ready to go home, a Skilled Nursing Facility is often the best option. You’ll receive medical care, physical therapy, help with managing medication and much more from the trained nurses and other professionals on staff. There are several factors to consider when choosing a SNF, and some warning signs to watch out for as well. Research can help you choose the right SNF for you or your loved one.

Use our community search tool to find Skilled Nursing Facilities in your area.

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