Post-Acute Care for Seniors: Advice to Regain Mobility after a Hospital Stay

elderly man walking with a walker in a hospitalA serious injury or illness that results in a hospitalization can cause a serious reduction of mobility for seniors and elderly.  In the best instances, the loss of mobility is short-term and a patient can make a full recovery and return to independence after a hospital stay.  For some, however, a serious health event, such as a joint replacement, broken bone, or cardiac event, leads to a more serious and long-term or permanent decline in mobility.

Post-Acute Care

The follow-up care you receive after leaving the hospital plays a large role in the recovery process and can be a major factor in determining mobility moving forward.  This follow-up care is called post-acute care, and it’s a major part of the rehabilitation process. Post-acute care is often necessary for seniors to regain as much independence and mobility as possible after a hospitalization.  Unfortunately, it’s also a complicated and difficult part of the healthcare system.

By taking some time to learn, prepare and plan for post-acute care, you can select a high-quality provider and experience a better and faster recovery.  Choosing the right post-acute care can also help decrease overall and out-pocket-healthcare costs. Most importantly, yourself or your loved ones will not have to experience the stressful and challenging situation of having to select a post-acute care provider with limited time and resources, as too many often experience.

Your doctor or healthcare provider will usually let you know about post-acute care needs before or upon admission to the hospital.  There are some situations when you might not find out until closer to discharge, however. In these situations, it’s important to still understand that even a little research and well thought out planning can have a big impact on the overall recovery process.

Usually, patients are often assigned a case manager, social worker, or discharge planner who will guide you through the post-hospital care process and assist you with recovery and the transition back to home. This person is often a great resource to discuss and help with the post-acute care selection process.

Types of Post-Acute Care

nurse pushing elderly woman in a nursing homeNext, it’s important to understand the different types of post-acute care and how they might match your specific needs.  There are four types of post-acute care that all provide different services in separate settings.

  1. Home health care agencies provide licensed medical professionals to deliver healthcare services in your home so that you can continue your recovery outside of the hospital and not have to go to a rehabilitation facility. This is the most common and least expensive type of post-acute care. Common services include wound care, physical therapy, and medication support.
  2. Skilled nursing facilities are short term residential facilities that offer around-the-clock high-level medical care and rehabilitation. These facilities provide long-term or short-term assistance to help patients regain independence and return to their home as soon as possible. Common services include physical and occupational therapy, speech-pathology services, and complex wound care.
  3. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities provide intensive, hospital-level care for patients with complex conditions such as spinal cord diseases or traumatic brain injuries. Common services provided include physical therapy and stroke rehabilitation.
  4. Long term care hospitals offer the same level of care as traditional hospitals or intensive care units, but over extended periods of time. Common services include ventilator care, intravenous therapy, and dialysis.

Evaluating Post-Acute Care Providers

Once you have determined the type of post-acute care that you or your loved one needs, there are some key areas and factors to consider when evaluating and comparing different providers.

  • Talk to your medical professional to understand your specific clinical needs. If you or your loved one has a certain medical condition (such as diabetes, comorbidities, Alzheimer’s, etc), you can narrow down your search based on if a provider offers those specialty services.
  • Make sure that that the selected post-acute care provider is part of your insurance network by verifying insurance coverage and ensure that the treatment is covered under the insurance policy.
  • Compare Medicare quality data and other important information such as health inspection reports and patient reviews.
  • If possible, visit the facility and/or talk to current staff members and residents about their experiences. Evaluate the facility’s medical specialties, cleanliness, and amenity options.

Summary

Navigating through post-acute care can be a difficult and emotional process, especially for seniors.  By taking your time to do some research and make a well thought out decision, you can greatly improve your chances of regaining as much independence and mobility as possible after a hospitalization. There are many online communities and discussion forums to find out more about the rehabilitation process and learn from others’ experiences to make the most of the recovery journey.  Most of all, the post-acute care decision is a personal one, so be sure to make the decision that is best for you!

About the Author:

Ryan Miller, MBA, is co-founder of repisodic (www.repisodic.com), a healthcare technology company that helps patients, families and caregivers find high-quality post-acute care.  He is a proud healthcare policy wonk and currently lives in Washington, DC with his lovely wife and awesome dog, Butters. Learn more about Repisodic on Facebook or Twitter.

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