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How skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities differ

Deciding on which type of care facility matches the needs of your elderly relative is an important decision. Often, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and residential care facilities (RCFEs) are confused as being the same. However, each provides a different type of service. 

The standards of care required from SNFs and RCF’s are distinct. As a result, it is worth considering the roles and obligations of each type of facility in greater depth. 

What is a skilled nursing facility? 

Skilled nursing facilities are often simply referred to as nursing homes. SNFs are expected to provide 24-hour care to residents and are licensed medically by the California Department of Public Health. Due to the medical nature of these complexes, they are typically held to a much higher standard than other residential homes. 

California regulations state that SNFs should provide a physician, nursing staff, dieticians, pharmaceutical services and activity programs at the minimum. When a patient suffers harm in an SNF, a medical malpractice claim may be viable. 

What are residential care facilities? 

The key distinction between SNF and RCFEs is that the latter is not considered to be a medical facility. Typically, RCFEs (assisted living centers) offer accommodation, housekeeping, meals and personal care assistance to elderly residents. 

It is important to note that although RCFEs are not medical facilities, they are still strictly regulated. The California Department of Social Services oversees the legal expectations of RCFEs. Crucially, if an elderly person comes to harm in an RCFEs, then the facility may still be liable for negligence and elder abuse. 

Knowing the differences between SNF and RCFEs could help you to protect the interests of your elderly relatives. If you suspect elder abuse or negligence, it is important to know that elderly people in care have legal rights and protections.