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Nursing Homes

An overview of nursing homes and the services they provide.

Generally, nursing homes fall into one of three categories. A skilled nursing facility, or SNF, is one in which nursing care is available 24 hours a day for residents who have serious health care needs. An SNF may also provide rehabilitative therapy.


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An intermediate care facility, or ICF, provides less extensive health care than does an SNF, and generally does not provide round the clock nursing care. ICFs are populated primarily by residents who need minimal medical assistance, but who can no longer live on their own and require help with their personal care.

A residential care facility, or RCF, is one which provides housing and help with personal care, such as assistance in getting dressed, eating, and grooming. But a RCF doesn't provide medical or skilled nursing services.

It's the last two of these that causes the greatest number of financial problems for retirees. While Medicare will help pay for care in a SNF after hospitalization, (and provided other conditions are met) it does not pay for intermediate or residential care.

To pay for these services, retirees have several choices. The first is to use their own savings. The second is to rely on their children and other family members to bear the cost of long term nursing home care. For wealthy retirees, the first option is certainly plausible; but for most retirees, the second one is not. Generally, the law doesn't require children to pay for nursing home care for their parents, and most of us would be reluctant at best to even ask our children to do so. The other option is to purchase nursing home insurance, also referred to as long term care insurance.

Copyright 1999 ProSe Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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