Many older adults need rehabilitation services after a hospital stay. Whether your elderly loved one is recovering from an illness, injury, stroke, or surgery, rehab can help them regain strength and mobility. It can also improve physical and cognitive function.
When it comes to choosing where to complete rehab, families have options. So how do you choose between a skilled nursing facility and an inpatient rehab center? Both skilled nursing and rehab centers aim to help seniors recover and restore function so they can return to normal activities and live as independently as possible. They also provide many of the same rehab services, but the intensity of programs offered may differ.
It’s important to understand the differences between these two rehab options and to discuss their benefits with a doctor to make the right decision for your loved one.
There are many reasons seniors need rehab services — a fractured hip, stroke, pneumonia, or heart disease are just a few. Skilled nursing facilities provide short-term, temporary housing, 24-hour skilled nursing services, and medical care to elderly adults who need rehab after a hospital discharge.
Rehab services at a skilled nursing facility may include:
Elderly adults at skilled nursing facilities receive therapies for an average of one to two hours a day. They also receive personal care and help with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, and using the restroom.
Staff at these facilities include certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists, among other specialists. Once staff evaluate your loved one’s health and rehab goals, they’ll develop a care plan. The plan outlines the type of rehab services your family member needs and how often they’ll receive them.
Rehab at a skilled nursing facility may be partially or fully covered by Medicare, depending on how long your parent needs rehab care. Medicare coverage may include a shared room, meals, medications, skilled nursing care, different types of therapies, and more. To be eligible for Medicare coverage, your loved one must enter the facility within 30 days of being discharged after a hospital stay that lasted at least three days.
Inpatient rehab is offered at special hospital units dedicated to rehabilitation services. The same rehab services offered at skilled nursing facilities are provided at inpatient rehab centers, including nursing care, orthopedic rehabilitation, physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and more. However, programs at inpatient rehab centers focus on acute care for elderly adults who need more intensive treatment and recovery.
Seniors who’ve had a stroke, traumatic injuries, surgeries, and amputations may need intensive, daily therapy for a successful recovery. Rehab centers offer a minimum of three hours of therapies daily, six days a week, to promote fast, but safe, recovery.
Older adults who complete rehab at inpatient rehab centers often have shorter stays than those who choose rehab at skilled nursing facilities. A typical stay at a rehab center ranges from 10 to 35 days. Stays of 24 to 60 days are common at skilled nursing facilities. As in skilled nursing facilities, inpatient rehab centers offer meals, personal care, and assistance with daily activities.
Rehab at an inpatient rehab center may be covered by Medicare, but your parent may need to pay a deductible. Medicare coverage may include shared rooms, meals, medications, nursing care, and different therapies.
When choosing the right rehab option for your senior loved one, it’s important to discuss rehab goals and needs with their doctor.
Here are a few important factors to consider when choosing between skilled nursing vs rehab:
Skilled Nursing Facility
Inpatient Rehab Care
1 to 2 hours of daily therapy
At least 3 hours of daily therapy
Average length of stay
24 to 60 days
10 to 35 days
Access to physicians
Physician visits 1 to 3 times a week
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
Daily physician visits
Nursing assistants certified in long-term care who are supervised by registered nurses or licensed practical nurses
Registered nurses who specialize in rehabilitative care
Costs and Medicare coverage
May be completely or partially covered by Medicare, depending on multiple factors, including length of stay
May be partially covered, depending on facility; may require a deductible
Medicare.gov. Inpatient hospital care.
Medicare.gov. Skilled nursing facility (SNF) care.