what qualifies a patient for skilled nursing care

What Qualifies a Patient for Skilled Nursing Care?

Skilled nurses are needed in almost any healthcare environment, from senior living centers to hospitals. Sometimes, patients will require support around the clock. Other times, they require short-term assistance as they recover from a health condition or medical crisis. 

Elderly care is the most common reason for skilled nursing services. As individuals age, they may need extra help performing daily tasks. In addition, some older adults may develop serious illnesses or diseases that make it harder for them to remain fully independent. 

What qualifies a patient for skilled nursing care? Today, we’re sharing a few factors to understand so you can make the best decision for your loved one.

What Is Skilled Nursing Care?

First, let’s take a minute to understand what skilled nurses do. Many people believe these professionals work exclusively in nursing homes, but that isn’t always the case. 

Nursing homes are designated facilities that support a patient’s long-term care. While skilled nurses can certainly work here, you’ll also find them in a variety of other settings, such as:

  • Private residences
  • Hospitals
  • Assisted living neighborhoods

Often, patients will work with skilled nurses for temporary rehabilitation. For instance, if they’re recovering from a major surgery or cardiac event, they’ll need help to regain their strength and capabilities. When their services are complete, these patients may return to independent living facilities or go back to their own homes. 

In other cases, patients will require more one-on-one care from a skilled nurse, receiving continuous services that may include:

  • Medical care
  • Wound care
  • Catheter care
  • Physical therapy
  • IV therapies and injections
  • Assistance with bathing, dressing, and toileting

Many different types of medical practitioners can provide skilled nursing care. This can range from registered licensed nurses (RNs) and medical doctors (MDs) to wellness experts and providers who specialize in physical, occupational, or speech therapies. 

Understanding Caregiver Stress

Sometimes, individuals decide to move their relatives to a skilled nursing facility once they realize that a family member can no longer keep up with the demands of daily caregiving.

Studies show that around 23% of adults provide care or assistance to a friend or family member each month. While this is a noble and worthy act, it isn’t without health risks. As they tend to their loved ones’ needs, caregivers can shoulder a significant amount of stress, anxiety, and physical strain. 

One report found that stress affects about 36% of the 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. If you’ve started to feel this strain, it might be time to discuss your next steps. 

What Qualifies a Patient for Skilled Nursing Care?

Are you wondering if a loved one is ready to transition into skilled nursing care? If so, there are both medical and non-medical factors to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the top things to think about as you plan this move. 

Declining Health

Many times, patients require skilled nursing care because they’re suffering from some type of medical condition that affects their health and quality of life. This can include:

  • Disease
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Age-related dementia

These issues tend to come on slowly, with subtle signs that eventually give way to more serious concerns. Staying proactive and closely monitoring your loved one’s health can allow you to discern when they require this level of support. As their health declines, they may be ready to move from independent living to a place with a greater level of care, such as assisted living at College Harbor.

Behavioral Changes

In addition to physical concerns, you may also notice that your relative is starting to act differently. Some behavioral changes can signal a decline in mental or emotional capacity. These include:

  • Exhibiting poor hygiene
  • Keeping an unkempt apperance
  • Misusing or ceasing to take medications 
  • Losing interest in hobbies and social activities
  • Failing to eat or drink enough, and experiencing rapid weight loss
  • Failing to keep up with normal housekeeping, bill paying, and related tasks
  • Walking unsteadily or appearing disoriented

If you only notice one or two of these issues, it can be helpful to have a conversation with your loved one. They might not realize they’re displaying these behaviors, and a little guidance could be all they require. However, if multiple signs are present, it’s worth checking with their healthcare provider to see if skilled nursing could help. 

Medical Concerns

Following a critical medical event, most individuals will require skilled nursing care. While this might be on a short-term basis, many conditions can trigger a decline in overall health that requires more consistent, long-term assistance. 

Some of the most common medical conditions and events that can occur as individuals age include:

  • Cardiac failure
  • Stroke
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Fall-related injuries
  • Orthopedic surgeries
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Bone fractures (especially hip) 

Cognitive Difficulties

Lastly, you might be thinking about moving your loved one to a skilled nursing facility because they’ve started to show early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. These are serious health conditions that make living alone risky or even dangerous. 

Some of the initial symptoms you may have noticed include:

  • Repeating the same questions multiple times
  • Being unable to follow basic directions
  • Confusing the names and faces of relatives, friends, or well-known people
  • Becoming lost in once-familiar places 
  • Forgetting or misunderstanding simple times and locations 

When these signs begin to take hold, it’s important to talk to your loved one about their safety. If their cognition begins to decline, they could put themselves and others at risk by living alone.

For instance, they might forget to turn off the stove before they leave home, or get lost on the highway trying to find a destination. Living in a skilled nursing facility can provide them with the ultimate level of care and assistance.

Is Skilled Nursing Care Right for Your Loved One?

What qualifies a patient for skilled nursing care? As you can see, there isn’t one factor involved. Rather, this is a multi-layered decision that should take into account an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional state. 

As you begin to make preparations and take these next steps, it’s important to speak to your loved one with respect. Remember that they are a whole person, and these topics can be sensitive. Visit our Lifestyle section for more tips on how to make important family decisions like this one! 

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