An older adult woman and man sit on a couch. The man appears to cough or is in distress. The woman looks at him, concerned.
Nursing homes are long-term residential care communities that help residents with round-the-clock personal care and other needs.

The term nursing home is often used interchangeably with other types of residential care, such as assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Because of this, it can be challenging to understand what services can be received and who would benefit from their care.

Nursing homes provide high care for older adults and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. People living in nursing homes can benefit in many ways, from having round-the-clock assistance with personal care to social engagements, added safety to their lives, and more. This guide will review the services a nursing home provides, who regulates them, and paying for care. 

What services are provided at a nursing home?

Nursing homes provide a wide range of services, from personal care to some medical services, safety, and engagement. These communities support residents with all their daily needs. 

Personal care

Personal care services include assistance with toileting, bathing, dressing, transferring (like getting in and out of bed), ambulating (moving around), and eating. These tasks are considered activities of daily living. A nursing home is equipped to assist people who need multiple people to assist them or use supportive devices to assist the individual. 

Qualified nursing assistants perform these services. These professionals may also be called personal care aides or have similar titles. They can assist people with high levels of physical care needs. 

Medical services

Nursing homes can provide medication assistance and medical services like, catheter management. Staff at nursing homes can administer medications, including injections, IVs, and topical medications. In addition, wound care can be provided.

In many cases, the need for these services limits a person’s ability to receive care at home or in an assisted living residence, making a nursing home a necessary environment to receive these types of life-assisting care. 


Nursing homes provide a full schedule of engagement activities to fulfill emotional and physical needs. Activities might include light exercise, music programs, crafts, and games. Residents have the opportunity to participate in activities of interest to them. Nursing homes have staff to lead and facilitate activities throughout the day. 

Nursing homes often encourage family members of residents to participate in certain activities. This contributes to lively events and helps residents remain connected to their family members, which supports emotional well-being.

Specialized care

Some nursing homes also have specialized care programs, such as memory care programs. These are generally secured neighborhoods or wings within a larger nursing home with staff specially trained in dementia care. This can benefit people with dementia who experience challenging behavioral symptoms or have a risk of wandering. 

Other beneficial aspects of specialized care services at nursing homes can also mean a higher level of safety. Memory care services may include increased security features to support the physical safety of people with dementia. These features might include hallways designed so residents cannot get lost as easily, courtyards that are outdoor areas but cannot access the exterior part of the building near roads, entryways to the wing that require employee card access to pass through, and others.

Who benefits from nursing home care? 

Nursing homes care for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or adults who cannot live safely and independently at home due to behavioral or cognitive issues. In many cases, their needs are more advanced than what can be safely provided at home or in another senior living residence, like an independent living or assisted living community. Other people who benefit from nursing home care can be people with dementia if they can no longer live alone safely at home. 

People are eligible for nursing home care when they need assistance with multiple activities of daily living. 

Paying for nursing home care

Nursing homes charge per day and are generally not covered by private insurance companies, especially for long-term care. Medicare does not cover the rent at a nursing home because rent is not considered a medical expense. 

Nursing homes are care facilities regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This means they must follow specific rules to maintain a given level of care for their residents. This also means that nursing homes can be paid for by Medicaid when a person is eligible. Eligibility for Medicaid varies from state to state but is generally a statewide insurance program for people with low income. 
If an individual is not eligible for Medicaid, other options exist for paying for care. Other payment options include using long-term care insurance, accessing veterans benefits, like Aid and Attendance, and using life insurance.