Nurse assisting an elderly patient with walking at a skilled nursing facility

What Is A Skilled Nursing Facility & What To Look For When Choosing One

There are many different facilities and options when it comes to different levels of care for loved ones after an illness or injury, or when finding the best support for yourself. The more you know about the different choices, from rehabilitative services to long-term care services, the easier it will be to verify the insurance coverage you need and to find a team that makes recovery as smooth and easy as possible. 


One such facility is a skilled nursing facility, which can help individuals get back on their feet after surgery or an illness, with the support of professional nurses and other medical professionals such as physical therapists or occupational therapists. Finding the right facility for short-term care needs can make a big difference, and Lightyear Health is here to help with every step of the journey. 


Here at Lightyear Health, we believe in the graceful aging journey. That means providing information on a wide range of therapies and treatments, and opening lines of communication between patient, caretaker, and medical team. It also means sharing guides to the best post-hospital facilities, so you can begin healing today. 


Here’s a look at skilled nursing facilities, and the best way to find a skilled nursing facility that meets your needs. 

What Is a Skilled Nursing Facility? 

It’s important to understand what a skilled nursing facility is for many reasons. To start, skilled nursing facilities are covered under Part A of Medicare, up to 100 days. When searching for the best facility for your recovery journey, you’ll want to make sure it falls under your coverage, so you can focus on healing and rehabilitation. 


It’s also important to find a skilled nursing facility that provides the care and service that address the specific needs of an individual’s recovery. That’s because there are a wide range of tasks and programs provided by skilled nursing facilities, and you want to pick the best one for you.  


A skilled nursing facility is a location where the services provided must be performed by an expert professional. That includes support from physical therapists, occupational therapists, language and speech therapists, audiologists, and nutritionists/dieticians. The nurses at the facility are trained in medication distribution, and ambulance transport services may also be provided under skilled nursing facility coverage. 


Commonly confused with nursing homes (another residence-based type of senior care), skilled nursing care facility coverage does not typically include support such as custodial care for daily dressing or eating needs. Your doctor may decide you need skilled nursing facility care following a multi-day inpatient stay at a hospital or related infection or complications from care. With the support of a skilled nursing facility team, patients can begin to recover, so they can continue the healing process in the comfort of home and return to independently completing activities of daily living. 

What To Look For When Choosing a Skilled Nursing Facility

Skilled nursing facilities play an essential role in the healing and recovery process patients take. That’s why it’s important to find the right fit facility for their individual needs and rehabilitation goals, as recommended by their doctor and medical care team. Here are some things patients and caretakers will want to consider when picking out that perfect skilled nursing facility. 

Your Specific Care Needs

Because skilled nursing facilities can cover a wide range of specific care needs, you want to be sure that the facility you choose has the services you require. Many facilities have specialists on staff full-time with more critical services like wound care and IV therapy constantly available, but scheduled services like speech therapy may be only available every other day or only at specific times, which might conflict with a patient’s care schedule. When searching for a skilled nursing facility for yourself or your loved one, make sure they have the best team for recovery and healing.  

The Amount of Privacy 

Privacy and quiet can be useful throughout the healing process, especially after long days of therapy and recovery. Patients will want to consider their specific privacy preferences and needs, and whether they will be comfortable in a semi-private room, sharing space with other residents, or if they prefer single rooms. This may affect which facilities are available, but it’s important to consider for an individual’s comfort and peace of mind. 


It’s also a good idea to account for what personal belongings a patient may be allowed or encouraged to bring during their stay. Having photos, comfortable clothing, and their favorite books can help to put patients at ease, so they’re able to focus on therapy sessions and recovery. 

One-on-One Care

Each state has different regulations and guidelines as to the ratio of how many medical and support professionals are required for a certain number of patients. That said, patients and caretakers will want to look for facilities where they can receive the maximum amount of one-on-one care from nursing professionals and specialists. 


Look for facilities where one-on-one care and support is prioritized, and it’s easy to get the answers and resources needed for the next steps of recovery. 

What Medical Equipment is Available 

Patients may enter skilled nursing facilities for many different reasons, and they want to be sure that the facility has the equipment needed to provide them with comprehensive support. When asking about the type of specialists available and when therapies can be scheduled, look into the available equipment, as well, to make sure it aligns with the referring provider’s care plan. 

The Relationship Between Staff and Patients 

Developing a good relationship with nurses and specialists can be very useful throughout the healing and recovery process. They can provide support, patience, kindness, and answers to help patients on every step of the journey, and they can keep caretakers informed, so family and friends know when to visit and what to expect. 


It’s not always easy to quantify the dynamic between patients and caretakers, but it can be useful to look at the online reviews and maybe tour the facility in advance of entering. Watch for how the medical team and staff interact, and how well-cared-for the patients appear. Try to find a facility that puts patients at ease and helps them feel supported and cared for. 

The Appearance of the Facility 

It’s also important to pick a skilled nursing facility that feels comfortable and supportive. A facility that is well-maintained and cared for will be a more enjoyable place to try recovery therapies and to heal, and it can indicate how well the location is organized. 


Patients and caretakers will want to consider the type of lighting and how much is available, the noise levels and any quiet hour guidelines, if there are any lingering smells, and how clean and tidy the location is. You also want to consider how the individual rooms are set up and if they get light, feel comfortable, and have room for patients to set up their belongings with a little space to spare. 


Skilled nursing facilities should be more comfortable and homey than hospitals. Rather than feeling clinical or medical, they should give patients the sense of coming home, at least temporarily. 

Safety Support 

Safety support and protocol are extremely important in medical facilities, including skilled nursing facilities. That’s because not all patients are able to make their way to a safe location independently during an emergency, so having resources and programming in place for this special type of assistance is key. 


This means ensuring there is enough regular staff to support during an emergency, that hallways are well lit and exits well-marked, and that handles and rails are available for patients to navigate stairs and walkways more easily. 

Ask about safety protocols when determining the best skilled nursing facility for yourself or a loved one, so you’ll be prepared in the event of an emergency. 

Nearness to Family and Friends

Loved ones will usually want the opportunity to visit patients when they are able. That’s why location can play an important role when it comes to determining the best skilled nursing facility for patients on the healing journey. 


Friends and family can bring entertainment and snacks, and can show up often to provide both emotional and physical support. And when it comes to the recovery process, having that supportive community can make a huge difference. People will know that they’re not alone on their journey, and they have something to look forward to when the current stage of recovery or therapy concludes. 


It’s also important to have these associated individuals nearby in the event of an emergency. This will ensure that information is more quickly conveyed and support administered, according to a patient’s wishes

How the Patient Feels

At the end of the day, the most important thing is how a facility makes a patient feel. Recovery from injury, illness, or surgery is as much an emotional and mental health journey, as it is a physical one. If they feel safe, protected, and encouraged when visiting a skilled nursing facility, it will help them to embrace therapy and medical support, so they can meet their recovery goals. 


It can be helpful to tour a facility in advance, to see if a patient feels welcome and comfortable there. Incorporating patient instinct and feeling is essential when it comes to finding their temporary healing home. 


Finding the right skilled nursing facility is key to the recovery and recuperation of patients after surgery, infection, or injury. This can be particularly true for older patients, who may need more time to heal, and who should leave an in-patient hospital stay as quickly as possible, to avoid complications from recovery. 

Skilled nursing facilities are locations where patients have access to expert and professional care, including occupational therapy, speech pathology, and physical therapy, and part of the stay is covered under a Medicare Part A benefit period. 


When it comes to finding the best-skilled nursing facility for yourself, a patient, or loved one, there are a few essential things you’ll want to keep in mind. Make sure the facility has both the right specialists and the equipment needed for a patient’s specific recovery journey, and look at how much one-on-one time patients will spend with specialists. 


You also want to consider the facility’s appearance, safety programing, and relationship between staff and patients. Privacy and comfort play another important role in the determining the best location for care, as does the distance of the facility from family and friends. And, of course, patients will want to consider how comfortable and welcome they feel when they walk through the door. 


Whether you’re searching for information on Medicare coverage or you’re trying to find the best skilled nursing facility for yourself or a family member, trust the team at Lightyear Health to help you every step of the way. We’re putting the power back in the hands of the patients with innovative therapy, recovery solutions, and access to essential information and resources. 



Skilled nursing facility (SNF) care | Medicare.Gov 

Occupational therapy and primary care| US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health  

Fire-Safe Seniors program | U.S. Fire Administration 

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