Q: What is the difference between rehab, a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home?

A: This is a question we hear frequently, as the terms can be confusing.  Often, when a person is discharged from a hospital setting (especially if their stay has been lengthy), “Rehab” or a skilled nursing facility may be recommended for the patient, until such time as they gain enough strength to safely return home.  The care provided in a skilled nursing facility is typically more comprehensive and intense than the care that is provided in a long term care facility, aka “nursing home.” Long-term care is generally more supportive in nature, whereas skilled nursing care is used to rehabilitate a person for the purpose of returning home. Here’s where it gets a little confusing…..BOTH of these services can be provided in the same building, although they really are two distinctly different types of care.

Let’s break it down a little further.

Skilled nursing facility (SNF) or In-patient Rehab:  Skilled nursing facilities provide services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nursing on an inpatient basis.  Depending on the type of services the person receives, payment for the skilled services can last up to 100 days under the Medicare SNF benefit, with co-pays paid out-of-pocket or by a gap policy. When a person is receiving skilled nursing care, they typically have relatively short-term goals set for the care.  Multidisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals from various specialty areas with complementary skills and expertise meet weekly to review care and progress. Medicare will continue to pay for care up to 100 days, as long as patients continue to meet their goals.

Long-Term Care Facility:  A person who requires more care and monitoring than can be done at home is often admitted to a “nursing home,” known today as a long-term care facility. The long-term care facility provides people with assistance for daily living, and this is usually where residents stay until the end of their lives. The professional staff at a long-term care facility includes nurses, nursing aides, social workers, and dieticians. These healthcare professionals provide clinical care and activities to ensure the resident’s physical and social needs are being met.

In summary, skilled nursing care and long-term care are two distinctly different types of care that are sometimes available in the same building.  For more help on the care type that is appropriate for your loved one, call One Senior Place in Viera at 321-751-6771.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.