Choosing a Rehabilitative Care Facility

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by Dr. Timothy Murphree, Medical Director, Spartanburg Rehabilitation Institute 

When recovering from a disabling injury or disease, rehabilitative care is significant to a patient’s healing process, helping to provide positive results in regaining or improving productivity and independence.

Choosing a rehabilitation facility for yourself or a loved one may be one of the most important and difficult decisions you have to make. When you talk about rehabilitation facilities, you may hear the terms skilled nursing, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and acute rehabilitation hospitals. These all may seem like equal choices for rehabilitative care, but they’re not.

Each of the aforementioned facilities has rehabilitation professionals on staff, but only one – the rehabilitation hospital — specializes in rehabilitation, offering 24-hour rehabilitative nursing care, along with daily physician management and intensive rehabilitation therapies.

A national study shows that patients treated in inpatient rehabilitation hospitals have better long-term results than those treated in skilled nursing facilities. The study, which was commissioned by the ARA Research Institute, shows that patients treated in rehabilitation hospitals live longer, have less hospital and ER visits, and remain longer in their homes without additional outpatient services. These patients returned home from their initial stay two weeks earlier and remained home nearly two months longer.

In addition, patients who were treated in inpatient rehabilitation hospitals experienced an 8 percent lower mortality rate and 5 percent fewer emergency room visits per year. In addition, this past spring, The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association released guidelines strongly recommending that stroke patients be treated at inpatient rehabilitation facilities rather than skilled nursing facilities. The guidelines highlight the effective and important aspects of an inpatient rehabilitation facility, including:

  • Patients participate in at least 3 hours of rehabilitation a day from physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists
  • Nurses are continuously available
  • Doctors typically visit daily

So, how do you select a rehabilitation hospital that’s right for you or a loved one?

A good starting place is to discuss your options with your physician or healthcare provider. He or she is intimately involved with your health care and knows what your specific needs are. Your physician will know what type of rehabilitation will be required for your injury or illness. Ask for recommendations on rehabilitation hospitals, and then do some research:

  • Start with an online search. Compile information and form questions. Review general information about rehabilitative care, and gather information from the hospital’s web site.
  • Take a tour of the hospital. Observe the attitude of the staff, type of equipment, and the cleanliness of the facility. By visiting, you can get a sense of the care provided, compassion for patient dignity, and involvement of family members. You may want to ask about:
    • healthcare specialists who will be involved in your care,
    • nurse-to-patient ratio,
    • longevity of the staff,
    • certifications, and credentials of the staff,
    • how large the hospital is,
    • what services are provided,
    • hospital accreditations and recognitions,
    • patients’ results.
  • Note the location of the hospital. While the location should be considered, getting the best care for you or a loved one is most important. If you have to leave your hometown for treatment, check the hospital’s policy for overnight visitors and on-site available food services. Also, you can check the hospital’s proximity to hotels, grocery stores, and restaurants.
  • Determine if family members are involved in the patient’s care. Since family members help the patient transition back to his or her home and work life once they leave the hospital, it’s important that everyone – patient, family members, and hospital healthcare team – work together consistently to help the patient achieve the most independence possible.
  • Find out some “housekeeping” information, such as what language is spoken at the hospital, the types of insurance accepted, the hospital’s visitation hours, and anything else that can make your and your family’s stay more comfortable.

Don’t ever hesitate to research, observe, and ask questions to be sure you are treated at a facility that offers exemplary rehabilitative services in an environment that’s comfortable for you and your family.

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