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Fulton County Medical Center

Why It Is Important to Have Nursing Homes

doctor-andpatient-holding-handsNursing homes, like the one at Fulton County Medical Center (FCMC) in McConnellsburg, PA, provide an acute level of care for patients with injuries and illnesses, and for those who are recovering from surgery, but outside the hospital environment. They are facilities where the goal is to rehabilitate patients.

In fact, many do; nationwide, the average stay for Medicare residents in 2004 was 23 days and, among the elderly, 38 patients admitted in a given year recover enough to be discharged (Medicare patients represent just a fraction of residents; the average length of stay overall was 835 days).1

As of 2014, there were 15,600 nursing homes in the United States, and 1.7 million licensed beds.2 Based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, about 9 million individuals were served by these facilities that year.

The CDC’s National Nursing Home Survey, last conducted in 2004, also revealed 88% of residents were over 65, and over half were over 85 years old. Many in this age group require help with daily tasks and/or suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but nursing homes often provide short-term rehabilitation for people recovering from accident injuries or strokes.

Understandable, there are many facilities to accommodate a large number of people, but what exactly is a nursing home and how is it structured?

What Is a Nursing Home?

woman on the phone smilingA nursing facility can serve as either a place for acute care rehabilitation or a place for chronically ill or terminal patients. Long-term nursing care is provided at facilities equipped for it, such as Fulton County health center (the campus accommodates 67 residents at a time). The typical nursing home is structured a lot like a hospital. Staff members are based at centralized nursing stations, where they are easily accessible and can reach patient rooms quickly.

For residents, accommodations are provided in rooms that look like hospital rooms. They’re provided with hospital beds, and there is usually not much, if any, privacy. Individuals are frequently visited and checked on by nursing staff members who take vitals, administer medications, and assist with essential needs such as changing bedding and clothes and using the restroom.

Hospital pricing models are used as well. Billing typically works as follows:

  • Residents are charged a flat room rate per day.
  • Extra services, care, and supply costs are added to the bill.
  • The model assumes all residents receive the same care.
However, each patient requires an individualized level of care, so the services and supervision they require determine the totals paid. Some facilities offer semi-private rooms. The average cost in 2017, according to Genworth Financial, is $235 per day, while a private room is $267 per day.3

The government offers reimbursement for stays at nursing homes, based on the hours of care each patient needs, staff wages, insurance, and utilities, although many individuals are turning to private insurance as well. Patients on Medicare are covered for 12% of private nursing home costs.

caregiver with elderMedicaid patients are covered for 50%, but, with Veteran’s Administration coverage, 70% of costs are covered.4 Other factors that affect cost include occupancy and bed ratio. When beds are in demand or occupancy is high, the home can refuse a fixed payment, but facilities are more likely to accept low-paying residents when occupancy is low.

Nursing homes are often selected during the hospital discharge process, with the help of a discharge planner. This individual usually picks a facility, and the patient and their family must agree to the decision or decide on alternatives such as working with FCMC Social Services. Other ways of choosing a facility include:

  • Referrals from family members or friends, especially if admission isn’t directly from a hospital.
  • Due diligence by phone, asking about bed rates, staff turnover, and what the rate includes.
  • Review of a nursing home checklist that covers first impressions, accommodations, services, licensure/certification, social activities, staff, and food.

Benefits of Nursing Homes

A nursing home is a place where loved ones are cared for. Ideally, each patient should be treated as an individual. The happiness of the staff is important to the well-being of residents. Also, there should be some degree of autonomy—freedom to choose food from a menu, wear their own clothes, and go to sleep and awake when they desire.

You should also be able to visit a loved one when it’s most convenient. Many homes have open visiting hours. If, for example, a parent is recovering from surgery or is sick, some will permit overnight stays or prolonged visits during off hours.

That said, the major benefits for residents include:

Help is always available: Individuals who need help dressing, eating, bathing, and with daily hygiene and errands can receive assistance by a qualified and trained staff. Senior care often involves help with tasks that have become difficult. Physicians, nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other professionals should be on hand to help with medications and tend to other medical needs. People recovering from surgery can get regular physical therapy, while those recovering from stroke may work with an occupational or speech therapist.

Food is provided: Many nursing homes have foodservice facilities. Meals are provided three times a day, and residents may also receive snacks in between. Some homes even employ a dietician to work with the specific dietary requirements of each individual.

caregiver helping elderly womanSafety: People recovering from surgery or injuries are protected with equipment that prevents them from falling and being harmed. For the elderly, the security provided helps prevent injury if they have trouble walking or are forgetful and may not lock their door. Also, guests are often required to sign in at the front desk, so all occupants are screened upon entry.

Special care: Nursing homes have trained staff who treat those with more serious health needs, and they are more equipped than assisted living centers. Some medical conditions require constant attention. For a family member, it can be difficult and strenuous to handle on one’s own, but nursing professionals are trained to manage specific health issues. If necessary, emergency services are often available, or a nearby hospital is just a phone call away; ambulance drivers should be familiar with the quickest routes from the home to the nearest hospital.

Housekeeping tasks are taken care of: The staff of the building handles duties such as cleaning the room, making the bed, and doing the laundry. This is especially helpful for older individuals or those whose activity is restricted during recovery.

group of senior citizens smilingSocial activities: The social environment at a nursing home is often quite active and complements quality senior care. Residents have plenty of opportunities to make friends, which can help alleviate depression. Events and activities are organized to keep people occupied. A few homes even let able residents perform light tasks, such as picking up the mail, bringing supplies to other residents’ rooms, or tutoring young people in tasks from reading to sewing.

Aside from bingo, a nursing home may set up activities such as yoga classes, and interactive and educational activities are not unheard of. If there is an outdoor area on the premises, residents can go for walks or visit or eat with family members and friends. In some places, community groups come in and volunteer, offering opportunities for residents to interact with them.

There are many resources available at a nursing care center. If a resident needs help with daily tasks or with holding the phone, staffers are there to help. A nursing home is also a significant relief for family members. Being a family caretaker is difficult and stressful, but knowing a loved one is receiving round-the-clock care can bring peace of mind.

What Fulton County Medical Center Can Offer You

In addition to a 21-bed critical access hospital, the Fulton County health center has a 67-bed on-site nursing home. The hospital was built in 1950. An extended care wing opened in 1976 and accommodated 19 residents initially, which was expanded when an intermediate care unit opened. The FCMC nursing home was given a four-star rating by Medicare.gov in 2014.

two-women-smilingIt offers many benefits, including:

  • Proximity to populated areas, being within driving distance of Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, MD; and Harrisburg, PA.
  • Access to FCMC’s rehabilitation services, nutrition counseling, and Specialty Services, which cover:
    • Audiology
    • Ear, nose, and throat
    • General surgery
    • Hematology/oncology
    • Neurology
    • Nephrology
    • Pulmonology
    • Ophthalmology
    • Urology
    • Orthopedics
  • Residents also have access to the center’s many general medical services. These range from acute care, cardiology, and surgical services to cardiopulmonary rehab, occupational/physical/speed therapy, and wound care. If needed, blood, urine, and other test samples can be sent to an on-site laboratory, which supports the facility’s clinical testing and blood bank services.
  • Nursing home services include 24-hour care, therapy, nutrition services, social services, restorative nursing, activities, and a beauty/barber shop.
  • Semi-private rooms have privacy walls, windows with views of the valley landscape, bathrooms, a television, bedside phone, wardrobe closet, and climate control.
  • Amenities such as cable television, laundry service, a hydration cart, and chaplain services are available.

Fulton County Medical Center’s on-site nursing home is open to patients requiring long-term care and rehabilitation. Residents have access to imaging and other diagnostic services (x-rays, MRI, CT, bone densitometry, ultrasound, nuclear medicine). Others include nutrition counseling, diabetes education, and home health services, so individuals can continue receiving medical care after they complete their nursing home stay.

Home Care Is Also Available

Team Home Health, a service of FCMC, is a home care provider that specializes in wound care, IV infusions, cardiac management, post-surgical care, ostomy care, diabetic management, and chemotherapy administration, among many other care needs. Our services aren’t limited to Fulton County, as home care professionals work with patients in Franklin, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Bedford, Centre, Juniata, and Blair Counties.

Choose the Best Care with FCMC’s Social Services Team

A social services staff can assist with deciding on the best level of senior care. They can inform family members and patients about a variety of community resources. Helping deal with emotional, social, and financial stress, our team can also assist with planning and choosing the services to be rendered before a patient is discharged from the hospital.

It is important to have nursing homes for many reasons, from helping people recover from injuries or surgery to providing long-term care for elderly and critically ill patients. Facilities can tend to their physical, psychological, dietary, and social needs. Access to quality medical care is important, so contact Fulton County Medical Center at (717) 485-6336 or tgoshorn@fcmcpa.org for in-depth insights, and advice or to tour the nursing home.


  1. https://www.longtermcarelink.net/eldercare/nursing_home.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/nursing-home-care.htm
  3. https://www.genworth.com/about-us/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html
  4. https://www.longtermcarelink.net/eldercare/nursing_home.htm