Five Reasons Why Skilled Nursing Facilities Are A Good Place to Live
Whether you are a temporary visitor going through rehabilitation or a long term resident, there are great benefits to living in a skilled nursing facility (which I’ll refer to as “SNFs” here). I visited with a number of my patients who are residents of various facilities. Based on their first-hand experience, coupled with my observations from the physician’s perspective, I will tell you that SNFs can provide a truly enriching and supportive living environment. Here’s how:
1. Greater availability of healthcare services. Nursing services are available 24/7. The nursing staff is vigilantly looking after your medical needs, watching for changes and early warning signs, and communicating with your other healthcare providers.
In the SNF, you will probably see your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant much more frequently. Most seniors who live at home or in assisted living facilities typically see their physician every 1-3 months (at best) for a brief office visit. Providers from my practice visit our SNFs several times a week so we can closely monitor our patients and provide the best possible care.
The SNF pharmacist provides an additional safety net, looking out specifically for drug interactions and side effects, and the SNF medical director and medication review committees can provide additional oversight into residents’ medical care.
2. Help with activities of daily living. If you need help with basic daily tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, walking or transferring, this is the place for you. And even if you don’t have those needs, someone will take care of your laundry, dishes, housekeeping, cooking—all of those mundane chores will be handled for you!
3. Physical activity. Engaging in movement, at whatever level you are able, is vital to maintaining good health. Seniors who live alone often become sedentary due to risk of falling or lack of opportunities to engage in exercise. SNFs, on the other hand, provide a range of opportunities for residents to exercise and move, such as:
- seated exercise and stretching
- assistance with walking
- exercise classes such as aerobic, tai chi, yoga, dance
- swimming/water therapy (depending on the facility)
- physical therapy/rehab programs
4. Social interaction and spiritual support. People who live alone are frequently isolated and lonely; it is easy for them to become depressed and despondent. SNF residents have ample opportunities to make friends and engage in enriching social activities like music programs, crafts, Bingo, foreign language classes, and community outings. Especially for people who have a social and gregarious nature, this can be a fun and fulfilling environment.
But even introverts can find happiness and forge important SNF friendships! I know one very intelligent resident who enjoys spending quiet time alone reading and watching the History Channel; she is a PhD who had a successful career as a professor. She finds Bingo silly and is not interested in crafts. However, she has connected with a gentleman who speaks five languages and another who was a cartographer. These three are intellectually amused by one another and spend a great deal of time together engaged in conversation and debate. This gives them all happiness, stimulates their brains and generates healing endorphins.
In addition to social interaction, regular worship services, chaplains/priests/rabbis, and other types of spiritual support are offered in many SNFs to support the residents’ spiritual lives. And certain facilities are based on their residents’ faith.
5. Balanced diet and nutrition. We all know that proper nutrition is essential to maintaining health and vitality. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for some people who live alone to make trips to the grocery store and prepare healthy meals. In the SNF, all meals are provided for you. And special needs, such as the comprehensive carbohydrate diet for diabetics, are accommodated. If you are losing or gaining weight, your provider can consult with the staff dietician who will review your situation and make recommendations about appropriate changes dietary changes to support your health and healing.
When should you consider a SNF? Sometimes, following a surgery or other hospitalization, your physician will recommend that you transfer to a SNF for short term healing, assistance and rehabilitation. In these circumstances you are most likely to recover fully and return home.
In other cases, when a patient requires a level of care that cannot be provided by some combination of family members and home health services, it is the right time to move into a SNF. This might be the eventual result of symptoms related to dementia, stroke, or other injuries, disease or illness. In these circumstances, 24-hour care and assistance may be just what the doctor ordered. You need the level of care that can best be provided in a skilled nursing facility.
Depending on your circumstances, it can be emotionally troubling to make the move to a SNF. I like to remind my patients about the significance of attitude. Humans are very resilient and flexible. We can find happiness in challenging situations if we are willing to be open to it. Please consider the long list of benefits and opportunities for living a healthy and happy life supported by the SNF environment.