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Choosing a Rehabilitation Hospital

What is a rehabilitation facility?

When talking about rehabilitation facilities, you may hear the terms skilled nursing or sub-acute rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and acute rehabilitation hospitals. To select a care facility for a loved one all of those may seem like equal choices for where to go next after a hospital stay, but they’re not. Each of those choices has rehab professionals on staff, but only one of the choices specializes in rehabilitation – the acute rehabilitation hospital. The acute rehabilitation hospital offers 24-hour nursing care along with intensive rehabilitation therapies. You must meet certain admission criteria to qualify for care in an acute rehab setting.

How should someone make a decision on a facility, especially if they are making a decision for a loved one?

The key is to review your facility choices based on the injury or illness and what kind of rehab is required.

How is the level of care different at a rehabilitation hospital?

Because rehabilitation is the primary focus, acute rehabilitation hospitals, such as Mary Free Bed, provide a level of care distinctly different from other facilities that offer rehabilitation services as one of many service lines. This benefits the patient because the skill and experience of the nurses and therapists is usually more specialized and can make a difference in the patient’s outcome.

What services does an acute rehabilitation hospital provide?

Rehabilitation hospitals offer more intensive therapy services beyond the traditional physical, occupational, and speech therapies. They also provide specialty services that can benefit the patient both in the inpatient setting as well as in the outpatient setting. These services and programs  —  for example, driver rehab, rehab technology, adaptive sports, among many others — can add to the patient’s quality of life as well as his or her level of independence.

Are there specialists at a rehabilitation facility?

Yes. Rehab hospitals provide physician specialists (physiatrists) with expertise in treating patients with disabling injuries or illnesses. Therapy and nursing staff are also specially trained to treat patients with acute rehab needs.

What distinguishes a highly trained nurse or therapist?

Education, years of experience, innovative therapy techniques, and dedication are many of the components that make up a highly trained nurse or therapist.

Besides the staff, what should someone look for in a facility?

When selecting a facility, if time permits, it’s important to take a tour. The loved one and family members will be spending several days or weeks at the facility so it’s important to feel comfortable. By visiting, you can get a sense of staff members’ responses, compassion for patient dignity, and just an overall feel for the hospital. The size of the hospital is important, too. You may also want to ask about the longevity of staff and the staff’s licensing, certifications, and credentials.

Is the location of a rehab facility important?

It can be, but getting the best care available is more important. Sometimes people are fortunate to have a great rehabilitation hospital in their hometown, so the commute is short. Other times, they have to literally transplant their families to support a loved one during rehabilitation. In this kind of situation, learning about the hospital’s proximity to hotels and restaurants is important. And, it’s important to realize that basic necessities will be needed no matter where you stay, so shopping will be necessary. Also, don’t forget to ask if transportation is offered.

What kinds of questions should a loved one ask about the facility?

It’s important to know what standards the facility meets. Knowing how a facility is accredited can add an extra level of confidence in selecting the facility. Accreditations provide the knowledge that the facility is meeting the required medical standards, and, like Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, some facilities go beyond the required standards to obtain additional accreditations. The additional accreditations, and the steps required to obtain them, should add more confidence in the abilities of the rehabilitation hospital.

Also be sure to ask about patient outcomes. Simply defined, outcomes are determined by the types of functional gains a patient makes from the beginning to the end of his or her therapy.

Does the patient or the family have a choice in what facility he or she goes to?

A facility can certainly be requested, and if the physician agrees that the facility meets the needs of the patient he or she can discharge the patient to the facility. Usually, the discharge planner from the acute care hospital will help you understand your choices. By law, a discharge planner needs to give you all your available options.

If a patient is in an acute hospital couldn’t he or she just stay there? Why would the patient want or need to move?

Some acute care hospitals do have a rehab unit so a patient could stay in the same facility, but on a different floor. However, an acute rehabilitation hospital can provide more intensive therapy services and specialty services such as assistive technology, driver rehab, neuromuscular biofeedback, just to name a few. Plus, patients needing physical rehab will have access to physician specialists who have expertise in treating patients with disabling injuries or illnesses.

How are family members or loved ones involved?

The support of a family or loved ones can have a positive impact on a patient’s attitude. We also realize that the family or loved ones will be the people helping the patient transition back into his or her own world once they leave the hospital making it important for everyone to work together. The family and loved ones also have adjustments to make and have to understand how to best interact and help the patient, which doesn’t always mean doing everything for the patient, but knowing how to best assist the patient in achieving his or her goals. People don’t necessarily want everything done for them; sometimes they just need a little help.

What other factors should be considered when selecting a rehabilitation hospital?

It’s important to know if the services meet your needs. Ask about things such as the language spoken, the types of insurance accepted, and the hospital's visitation hours.

Are there special insurance requirements for rehabilitation care?

Yes, the rehab hospital you choose should be able to help you navigate this issue.

© 2012 Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital., Grand Rapids, MI | 1.855.MFB.REHAB
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