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Senior Rehabilitation Centers: Better Care Options After a Hospital Stay

Angelike Gaunt
By Angelike GauntMay 1, 2020

Did you know that families have options when choosing where to complete rehab after being discharged from the hospital? From skilled nursing homes that offer 24-hour care, to rehab services that can be carried out at home or at an assisted living community, learn about options that will help your loved one get better as quickly and safely as possible.

What is a senior rehabilitation center?

A senior rehab center is designed to help those recovering from an injury or serious medical event to reduce pain and improve function. Rehab facilities often include services such as:

  • Physical therapy to help improve mobility, balance, flexibility, increase strength, and manage pain
  • Occupational therapy to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), use of adaptive equipment, or fine motor skills
  • Speech therapy to help with conditions that affect communication, swallowing, or cognitive skills, such as attention or memory problems
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Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services for the elderly

Senior rehab centers may offer inpatient and outpatient services. Your loved one may need inpatient rehabilitation if they need around-the-clock care and continuous monitoring.

Inpatient rehab requires those recovering from a serious injury, debilitating disease, or major surgery to stay at a facility for a period of time. This type of rehab allows for intensive care that generally includes daily physical, occupational, or speech therapy.

Inpatient rehab facilities may offer meals provided by dietitians, exercise classes, social activities, and counseling services, while providing skilled medical care and assistance with daily activities, such as bathing and getting dressed.

Outpatient rehab also offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy. However, seniors live at home and go to a rehab center to complete their rehabilitation.

Short-term vs. long-term rehabilitation for seniors

Some senior rehab centers offer both short- and long-term inpatient rehab options. Your loved one’s health will dictate how much rehab they need.

For example, after a minor surgery, your parent may only require a short stay at a senior rehab center. However, chronic, serious conditions, such as heart problems or a stroke, may require several months of rehab services at a skilled nursing home that offers 24-hour care, seven days a week.

Your loved one’s doctor will consider the severity of their illness or injury to determine the type of rehab program they need. Together, you can decide if your parent is most likely to achieve rehab goals safely at a skilled nursing facility or a different rehab option.

Choosing a senior rehabilitation location after hospitalization

Senior rehabilitation can take place in a variety of settings.

When determining where to complete rehab, it’s important to find a location that will reduce your loved one’s risk of being readmitted to the hospital while helping them regain their strength and confidence as quickly as possible.

Senior rehabilitation therapy at skilled nursing facilities

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), also called rehab hospitals, offer temporary, short-term housing and rehabilitation services for people who require 24-hour nursing services and skilled medical care. These inpatient rehab facilities typically have a clinical feel, with hospital beds and shared rooms. Meals, dietary counseling, and social services are often provided.

Approved skilled nursing facilities may be covered by Medicare as long as your loved one enters the skilled nursing facility within 30 days of a hospital stay that lasted at least three days.

If your loved one is affected by COVID-19 or is not able to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, they may be able to get Medicare coverage for a skilled nursing facility without a qualifying hospital stay.

In-home rehabilitation therapy for the elderly

Some rehabilitation services can be carried out in the home through home health agencies. Home health services are paid for by Medicare or insurance.

Home health services are provided by licensed medical professionals who come to the home to do a specific task that has been ordered by a physician. These tasks may include monitoring health, administering injections, providing wound care, or developing a strength training and physical therapy exercise program.

Home health rehab therapy can only be offered a few times a week. This means that seniors who receive these services must be motivated to follow their rehab program when the therapist is not there.

In-home therapies also lack the peer support and socialization that can be provided in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities. That support and socialization often gives seniors the extra motivation they need as they recover.

Rehabilitation therapy for seniors at assisted living communities

Many people are not aware that rehabilitation can also be completed in assisted living communities. Just like at home, home health professionals can provide specific therapies and nursing services that are paid for by Medicare, with the added benefit of 24-hour assistance from the assisted living community staff.

If your loved one requires assistance with ADLs such as bathing, dressing or meal preparation after a hospitalization, an assisted living community may be a good rehabilitation option.

Many assisted living communities have a physical therapy and occupational therapy room in their building for residents to take advantage of high-tech equipment multiple times throughout the day.

For an older adult who expects to go home after rehab, ask about a short-term respite care stay at an assisted living community. A respite stay at an assisted living facility may also be a good option for your loved one who has completed rehab but is not yet confident enough to go home alone.

Respite care can allow a senior to have the peace of mind that someone is available 24 hours a day for assistance and for immediate response to emergencies.

Questions to ask about your hospital discharge plan

Ask your loved one’s doctor these questions before leaving the hospital:

  • What therapies will my parent require?
  • What services will health insurance or Medicare pay for?
  • Will my parent need help with dressing or bathing?
  • Will my loved one need help with cooking and housework?
  • Will my loved one be safe at home upon discharge or will someone need to be with them 24 hours a day?
  • What is the average length of recovery time?
  • What problems, symptoms, and side effects should we watch for?
  • What should we do about any potential side effects or problems?
  • Who do we call for emergencies and problems?
  • What does each medicine do and why is it needed?
  • What are the medication dosages and side effects?
  • Who do we call if we have questions about medical equipment, such as oxygen or a walker?
Angelike Gaunt
Author
Angelike Gaunt

Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.

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