When Short Term Rehabilitation Becomes Long Term Care

When patients enter short term rehabilitation, they certainly expect to be released within a few weeks. However, that doesn’t always happen, and the patient and his family need to adjust to the new reality of long-term care.

Why would a patient need to stay in rehab?

Although the goal of short term rehabilitation is to help the patient recover sufficiently to go home, it doesn’t always work out that way.

When a person enters into short term rehabilitation, it’s generally after an operation or hospitalization. The short term rehabilitation facility will create a program for the patient to meet certain goals. The program will comprise various therapies, usually at an intense pace, to get the patient quickly up and running. An example of a goal would be for patient with a knee replacement to be walking, or someone recovering from a heart attack to be able to dress himself.

  • Sometimes, for different reasons, the patient doesn’t meet his program goals. He may bee too weak from treatment, or his progress is slower than expected.

This may affect the patient’s ability to pay for the short term rehabilitation. Insurance companies pay for certain goals to be met, and the intense short term rehab program can be quite expensive. Insurance money may run out for these focused efforts, and the patient might have to switch to a long term care program instead, which is less costly, if he is not able to go home. Long term care has fewer therapies, one or two times a week instead of 3 to 5 times, and has lower treatment goals and expectations.

  • Another reason a patient may not be able to return home is that his home is not set up for his new situation. For example, if his condition requires wheelchair accessibility, his home may no longer be suitable.
  • Similarly, his new condition might require care that you simply can’t provide. He might need expertise that is only available in a long term care facility, even if he’s met his initial recovery goals.
  • His insurance might cover long-term care in a facility, but not a home health aide. If that’s the case, he will probably need to stay in long term care, unless he prefers to have a home health aide and can afford it.

Making the right move

The next step is planning the move to long term care. Sometimes the short term rehabilitation facility where the patient is being cared for also has a long term care wing. Sinai Post Acute Care Center for Rehabilitation provides short term rehab as well as long term care. In that case, switching into another part of the same facility can go smoothly and make it an easier process for both the patient and his family. In other cases, the family will have to meet with the care team or case manager to discuss the patient’s needs and determine the right fit for the next step in this difficult process.

Making it work

Moving a family member into long-term care doesn’t have to mean that you lose him as a member of your family. Most of the time, if the patient is  healthy, you can visit as often as you’d like. Here are some tips for smoothing the path to a positive long-term care relationship:

  • Don’t be afraid to advocate for your family member. At the same time, work with the staff. Everyone wants what’s best for the patient.
  • Get to know the people who work at the facility. You’ll be seeing them a lot, and it helps to know who does what and who you need to speak to.
  • Visit often. It’s best for maintaining the relationship as well as for the patient’s improved health.