Call it what you wish — nursing home, convalescent home, rest home, or skilled nursing facility — the fact is, at least 25% of seniors will spend time in a nursing home at some point in their lives. 

That’s a distant figure when you’re talking about the general population, but it hits much closer to home when you’re looking into long-term care options for a family member. Whether it’s your parent, grandparent, sibling, or spouse, it can be challenging to find a solution that fulfills all of their needs while maintaining the freedom and independence that they desire. 

Nursing homes often have a negative perception, but the good news is there are plenty of great skilled nursing facilities that you can trust to care for your loved one. As long as you know what to look for, what to watch out for, and what to expect, it may be easier than you expect to find a good rest home. 

What’s the Difference Between a Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility?

Nursing homes are aptly called skilled nursing facilities because they provide just that — trained and certified nurses who provide 24-hour monitoring and medical assistance. Most nursing homes also have licensed physicians and physical therapists on staff to handle daily therapy, health checkups, and emergencies.

In addition to the monitoring and medical attention, nursing homes also help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating. 

Assisted living facilities do not provide 24-hour monitoring and skilled nursing, but they do provide assistance with ADLs for residents who need a little extra help. Many assisted living facilities have an on-site physical therapist, pharmacist, and possibly a few nurses, but these medical professionals are there for added convenience, not out of necessity. 

In a nutshell, the primary difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities comes down to the residents. Patients in a nursing home are likely recovering from a serious illness or otherwise cannot care for themselves, while residents in an assisted living facility are fairly independent and just need a little help with one or more ADLs throughout their day.

What Services are Offered in Nursing Homes?

The primary purpose of a nursing home is to provide round-the-clock supervised care, with a licensed physician or nurse on-site for checkups and emergencies. Of course, there’s plenty more involved. Most nursing homes offer the following services for their residents:

  • Meals and dietary management
  • Housekeeping and laundry service
  • Exercise and physical therapy programs
  • Speech therapy
  • Hospice care
  • Pain management
  • Medication management
  • Social programs and activities
  • Assistance with Activities of Daily Living

Nursing homes should be stocked with medical equipment like oxygen machines, electronic beds, and monitoring devices to cater to their patients’ needs. There’s often a pharmacy on-site to manage their medication and quickly dispense medication in an emergency.

Specialized Nursing Homes

Some nursing homes specialize in treating patients with particular conditions and diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s. Other facilities offer a designated wing, floor, or building for specialized care, such as a Memory Care Unit.  

Specialized facilities cost more, but you’ll often find it’s worth the price for a loved one with special circumstances.  

How Much do Nursing Homes Cost?

According to recent statistics, the average monthly cost for nursing homes in the United states is $7,441 for a shared room and $8,365 for a private room. That comes out to a staggering annual total of $89,297 and $100,375, respectively.

In Arizona, skilled nursing homes generally cost a little less than the national average. Recent statistics suggest the average monthly cost of nursing homes in Arizona is $6,494 for a shared room and $94,900 for a private room. Annually, that’s $77,928 and $94,900, respectively — over $11,000 cheaper for shared rooms and about $5,500 cheaper for private rooms.

Of course, these are average figures, so take them with a grain of salt. The actual cost of a skilled nursing home depends on a variety of factors, such as room size, facility amenities, specialized services, and geography. 

Large metro areas like Phoenix and Tucson often have less expensive average costs, while remote locations like Flagstaff and Sedona generally cost a little more. It’s always wise to shop around for prices in your area to see if any facilities break from local or regional averages.

The length of stay is also a critical factor in determining the cost of a skilled nursing home. Short-term stays after hospitalization, injury, or illness are often covered by Medicare and private insurance. Long-term care, on the other hand, usually isn’t covered by insurance.

Finally, quality of care and facilities is a major factor in the final price. On one end of the spectrum, you have minimalist nursing homes offering the bare necessities for an affordable price. On the other end, you’ve got luxury homes that feel like a Four Seasons resort. Most nursing homes fall somewhere in the middle, and it’s your job to determine where your needs and budget fit in that spectrum.

General Statistics

According to the CDC, there are more than 15,600 nursing homes in the United States. Skilled nursing facilities offer more than 1.7 million licensed beds, though only 1.3 million of those beds are occupied by patients. 

Almost 70% of nursing homes are owned and operated by for-profit organizations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’d be wise to remember that for-profit organizations aren’t entirely altruistic. They may mean well, but at the end of the day, profits keep them in business. 

When to Make the Transition from Assisted Living to a Nursing Home

The average assisted living residency lasts about 22 months, at which point 60% of residents will transition to a nursing home for 24/7 monitoring and comprehensive care. 

Remember — assisted living facilities seek to strike a balance between helping with ADLs and maintaining a sense of freedom and independence. When a resident reaches a point where they cannot be independent, require 24-hour monitoring, and have a health issue that calls for on-site medical professionals, it’s time to transition to a nursing home.

Assisted living facilities are usually pretty good at letting families know when their loved one needs to transition to a nursing home. If you’re concerned, start by talking to your loved one to understand what they want to do. If you’re still worried, talk to your family member’s healthcare provider to seek a medical opinion.