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How to Find a Good Rehabilitation Facility

(ARA) - Nursing homes are often mistakenly thought of as places people are sent to live out their golden years when they can no longer take care of themselves, but they also serve another purpose. More and more these days, nursing homes -- or skilled nursing centers as they are now called -- serve as rehabilitation facilities for patients recovering from acute illnesses, injuries and surgery.

Most of the patients who end up in skilled nursing centers have had a decline in their medical condition brought on by a stroke, heart disease, hip or knee replacement or a fall. Most are alert and oriented but need help getting back to where they can care for themselves and live independently.

Depending on the ailment they are recovering from, typical short term stays at skilled nursing centers range from 10 to 40 days. During their stay, besides nursing care, patients receive the combination of physical, occupational and speech therapy they need. Physical therapy deals mostly with mobility. Occupational therapy deals with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation. Speech therapy deals with swallowing difficulties and cognitive issues.

“The recovery process can be both physically and emotionally challenging not only for the patient, but the family members as well. Since your loved one will rely so heavily on the staff to help take care of their needs, it’s important that you choose the best facility from the get-go,” says Jill Rodriguez, program manager for the Mercerville Center, a Genesis HealthCare skilled nursing center in New Jersey.

Rodriguez recommends you visit at least two or three skilled nursing facilities and compare the answers you get to these questions:

  1. How soon after admission can I expect therapy sessions to start?
  2. Do you have licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists on site?
  3. Does the center have the specific equipment needed for your loved one’s diagnosis? For example, patients recovering from total knee replacement will need a passive movement machine on a regular basis.
  4. Is there a set protocol or will therapy be tailored to my loved ones’ needs and abilities? How long are therapy sessions and how many times a week are they offered?
  5. Does the center encourage independence? Are nursing aides trained to encourage patients to do as much as possible for themselves?
  6. Will my loved one have the same therapist every day?
  7. How long can I expect my loved one to be here?
  8. What happens when my loved one is ready to come home? Will I receive training in how to care for them? Is a social worker available to assist with discharge planning?
  9. Is there a good team atmosphere between the nursing and therapy staffs?

Leona Fletcher, 82, of Whiting, N. J., checked in to Mercerville Center after falling down and breaking her arm. “Therapy helped to give me back my confidence with walking,” she says. “The atmosphere in therapy first gave me hope that I could return home, then they taught me the skills I needed to make my discharge possible. I consider my therapists trusted friends who knew exactly what needed to be done to get me back on my feet.”

According to the National Nursing Home Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in 1999, 68-percent of nursing home patients stay for less than 3 months. You can make that day come sooner by choosing the right facility -- one that has a strong rehabilitation therapy department.

Genesis HealthCare owns and operates 215 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as provides rehabilitation therapy services to an additional 500 long term care providers around the country. For more information about their facilities, log on to or call (800) 699-1520.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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