When Should I Move to a Skilled Nursing Community?

Deciding on the best time to move to a supportive living community can be challenging. When is the right time, and what level of support will provide the benefits you want to make your life easier and more enjoyable?

Even individuals who are already part of a supportive living community may struggle with transitions between levels of support. Those in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) who don’t have to move to a new location will often have an easier time getting more or less support, depending on their needs.

But for anyone not in a CCRC, it can be difficult to find the right time to move to a community with a higher level of support, such as skilled nursing. This article will help you review your lifestyle and the type of support you need with the specific goal of helping you determine the best time to move to a community with a higher level of support – specifically, a skilled nursing community. We’ll start by discussing just what a skilled nursing community is and what you can expect from one.

What is a Skilled Nursing Community?

Skilled nursing is support provided by registered nurses, physical or occupational therapists and other trained healthcare professionals for a person’s immediate needs. Individuals recovering from an auto accident injury, serious illness or major operation may temporarily need skilled nursing care. Residents of a skilled nursing community are often at or beyond retirement age and are under the care of a physician and at least one registered nurse at all times to ensure they’re safe and supported.

Skilled nursing services include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Intravenous feeding
  • Intramuscular and intravenous injections
  • Lung or nasal aspiration
  • Insertion, replacement and sterilization of catheters
  • Dressing applications requiring prescription topicals or other medications
  • Treating severe skin disorders such as ulcers
  • Administering medical gases such as oxygen, helium and nitrogen
  • Rehabilitative therapies

The goal of a skilled nursing community is often to transition individuals from needing round-the-clock medical care to assisted living or living in a continuing care retirement community. The length of time people spend in skilled nursing communities may be as short as a few days or as long as several years, depending on the injury or illness that necessitates this type of care. Adults age 65 and older may stay in skilled nursing communities for longer periods of time to gain access to the support they need to live full lives.

What is the Difference Between an Assisted Living Community and a Skilled Nursing Community?

The primary difference between assisted living and skilled nursing communities involves the level of care provided. Assisted living provides a lower level of support, with less oversight from licensed physicians and nurses. In general, assisted living communities focus on helping with daily tasks and activities such as getting dressed, personal hygiene like bathing, eating and moving around.

Assisted living teams monitor the status of a person’s health and report changes to attending physicians that can provide more advanced care. They also ensure residents are taking their medication properly and coordinate with therapy providers when necessary. Like RNs working in a skilled nursing community, assisted living nurses keep families and friends of residents apprised of the resident’s health and provide insights into managing chronic conditions.

Assisted living communities are designed for people who are capable of managing their lives but require help with small tasks like transportation, housekeeping, cooking and personal hygiene.

How is a Continuing Care Retirement Community Different from a Skilled Nursing Community?

A CCRC provides a full continuum of care, meaning it supports individuals through independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and sometimes memory care. Many continuing care retirement communities offer various programs defined by the type and amount of services a person needs. The biggest advantage of a CCRC is the ability for people to access differing levels of care without needing to move into another community that provides only specific medical care or living assistance.

Skilled nursing communities, on the other hand, focus on providing high-quality medical care to those that need more support than individuals in independent living or assisted living.

How Do You Know When Someone Needs Skilled Nursing Care?

Many people entering a skilled nursing community have had major surgery or are recuperating from a serious illness or injury. Individuals over 65 years old with chronic conditions that require regular, licensed medical care are also good candidates for skilled nursing communities. You should consider skilled nursing services if you or a relative need:

  • 24/7 nursing care
  • Assistance due to incontinence issues
  • Assistance with daily tasks and help managing one or more chronic conditions that requires skilled medical care
  • A licensed medical professional to care for wounds and ensure they are taking medications properly
  • Physical and/or cognitive rehabilitation therapy

The best way to determine if a skilled nursing community is right for a relative’s needs is for you to visit the community and take the time to ask questions about the staff/patient ratio, turnover rate of the community (regarding healthcare professionals attending to residents’ needs) and ability of the community to adequately manage the medical condition. Ask how medical emergencies are handled, who prepares meals for residents and how often you can call to receive a comprehensive update on your relative’s health.

Move to a Skilled Nursing Community When You’re Ready for Support that Enhances Your Life

Deciding to move someone into a skilled nursing, assisted living or continuing care retirement community can be difficult and confusing. Each community offers different levels of medical care and daily assistance that you should know about before making a decision.

At Forest Hill, we can help you make that decision by providing precise answers to your questions about when you or a relative should move to a skilled nursing community. We also have extensive experience providing assisted living and independent living options, so if you’re not ready for skilled nursing, we can help you select another solution that better meets your needs. For more information about what to expect from a skilled nursing community, contact us today.

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