Huizenga: Long Term Care Facility vs. a Nursing Home in Iowa

There is a lot of confusion in Iowa when it comes to facilities that provide residential care for the elderly. Some programs and insurance will pay for the cost of care in one type of facility but not another. Some people may qualify for only certain facilities.

So is there a difference between a nursing home and a long-term care facility in Iowa? Let’s look at the terms as they’re defined by the Iowa Department of Aging and Iowa Medicaid and see how the types of facilities differ.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Medicare covers the cost of care in a skilled nursing facility but does not cover the cost of a stay in a nursing home. That is because skilled nursing facilities provide specialized intense medical care for patients recovering from an accident, surgery, or illness. The average stay is about a month, and Medicare will only pay for about three months. The expectation is that patients in a skilled nursing facility will recover to the point where they no longer need such a high level of medical care.

Nursing Homes

A nursing home generally provides care for a much longer period of time, and the level of care is not as specialized. While patients in a skilled nursing facility might receive care from registered nurses operating under a doctor’s supervision, patients in nursing homes are often cared for by nurse’s aides and licensed practical nurses with less specialized medical training. The focus in a nursing home is less on recovery from a medical condition and more on daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.

A nursing home is a type of long-term care facility while a skilled nursing facility is not. But there are other types of long-term care facilities besides nursing homes.

Residential Care Facilities and Assisted Living

Both residential care facilities and assisted living facilities provide long-term care for individuals who cannot or don’t want to live in a completely independent environment. In an assisted living program facility, health care and personal assistance may be included in regular fees or they may be offered as add-on services. The Iowa Department of Aging describes these facilities as encouraging “tenant self-direction.”

A residential care facility provides housing, food, personal assistance, and daily living activities for individuals who are, according to the Department, “unable to sufficiently or properly care for themselves.” However the residents of these facilities do not generally need nursing care except in emergencies.

In addition, individuals may also receive long-term care in an elder group home, which is defined as a single-family home operated by someone who provides care for older adults who are not related to them.

Planning to Pay for Long-Term Care

Iowa Medicaid can pay for long-term care costs in many of these facilities for individuals who qualify. However, many people are uncertain about how to qualify and how to prove that they qualify. 

The team at Huizenga Law Firm, P.C. can help. We develop plans to help individuals and families pay for the care they need without unnecessarily depleting assets so that they can provide for loved ones in the future.

To learn how we could assist your family, contact us today.