Skilled Nursing Facility vs. Nursing Home – What’s the Difference?

Understanding the differences between skilled nursing and nursing homes

Doctor meeting with senior womanPeople often use the words “nursing home” and “skilled nursing” interchangeably, but they’re not the same. A nursing home is a permanent residence for seniors who cannot live at home. Skilled nursing is a description of a type of service that can be offered in hospitals, assisted living communities and Life Plan Communities, as well as nursing homes and other certified locations.

Other notable differences between nursing homes versus skilled nursing facilities is in their regulation, certification levels of staff and care services provided.

Regulations for Nursing Homes

  • Nursing homes in Greenville are regulated by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also oversees and regulates all aspects of each nursing home.
  • Nursing homes are given inspections called surveys, which look for violations or immediate threats to patient safety and satisfaction. The nursing home administrators then propose a plan of correction to address their violations. If a nursing home fails to improve, they could be fined, or their license or the admission of new residents could be suspended.

Regulations for Skilled Nursing

  • Skilled nursing is mostly regulated by the U.S. Department of Health and CMS.
  • To be certified by CMS, skilled nursing facilities in Greenville, SC. must meet strict criteria and are subject to periodic inspections to ensure quality standards are being met.

To help seniors, their families and caregivers compare nursing homes and skilled nursing communities more easily, CMS created the Five-Star Quality Rating System that gives each community a rating between 1 and 5 stars. A 5-Star rating signifies “much above average quality” care. One star represents “much below average quality.”

Staffing Criteria – Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide custodial, nonmedical care to adults who need help with day-to-day activities:

  • Daily help with getting in and out of bed, grooming, bathing and getting dressed
  • Light housekeeping services
  • Providing meal services
  • Assistance using the bathroom
  • Transportation services

Nursing homes are staffed by certified health care workers, but registered nurses or doctors may not always be available.

Staffing Criteria – Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled nursing communities in Greenville SC. can offer a wide range of services and medical care: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, physical therapy, and monitoring of vital signs and medical equipment.

Skilled nursing staff includes:

  • Medical directors
  • Registered nurses
  • Licensed practical nurses
  • Speech/Language pathologists
  • Licensed vocational nurses
  • Audiologists

They also must have a transfer agreement with a hospital in case a resident requires emergency care.

Helpful Tips and Questions to Ask

If you’re evaluating care options for yourself or a loved one, here are some helpful tips to get you started and important questions to ask.


  • Reach out to people you trust to be unbiased – friends, family or a physician – for their candid advice and recommendations.
  • Once you have a list of care options, visit the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Nursing Homes to check their rating.
  • You can also check a community’s online reviews, but because personal reviews can be very subjective, it’s important to weigh them with other information you’ve already collected.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your list, start scheduling visits to your top communities. As you’re doing this, consider other details, such as how they answer the phone, the time it takes for them to return messages and their helpfulness.

Taking a tour? Note the following:

What are your impressions of the place?

Does it look and smell clean?

Does the staff smile and greet residents by name?

Do the residents seem well cared for and happy?

Could you imagine your loved one living there?

Some important questions to ask:

Is there an entrance fee? If so, how much is it?

What’s the monthly fee and what’s not covered? (i.e., phone, cable TV, housekeeping, meals, health care)

How much input do residents, family members and your family doctor have regarding your loved one’s care?

Is there a monthly calendar of resident activities?

What’s a resident’s schedule for a typical day?

What’s the dining arrangement? Do residents eat in a dining room or in their rooms? Is it cafeteria-style or sit-down? How’s the food?

What’s the visitation policy? Are there set hours, or are visiting hours open?

What security safeguards are in place?

What is the staff-to-resident-ratio?

What forms of insurance does the community accept?

If you’re unsure whether skilled nursing or a nursing home is best for you or your loved one, contact your doctor or physician to assess what services you’ll need now or in the future. If you’d like to learn more about Rolling Green Village or discuss your care options, please use our contact form or call 864-987-9800.