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Rehab facilities: Is there a difference?

Created date

February 22nd, 2011

The care provided in a rehabilitation facility, also called a skilled nursing facility (SNF), is intended to help you get better, function more independently, and learn how to take care of your health needs. Most often, people go to SNFs following a hospitalization whether it s after surgery or an acute illness such as a stroke, says Vrinda Suneja, M.D.

Do your research

Finding the right SNF is important because it will be your home for a period of time. You need to be comfortable and well cared for during your stay. Visit before your stay if possible, Suneja advises. Look for a clean, well-maintained facility. Meet with people in the admissions department to find out what kind of health conditions the facility caters to, and if they can meet your specific needs. Inquire about the nurse-to-patient ratio and which other staff members will be caring for you. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends visiting at different times of day or even on weekends. Doing so might give you a better overall idea of how the facility operates. Suneja says there are many other important questions to ask: If you get sick, does that mean an automatic trip to the hospital? Or does the facility have the ability to do on-site tests like x-rays or blood tests? Is a doctor always available to assess you? Having an on-site medical staff is important for better quality of care, says Amy Brennan, health care sales manager for Renaissance Gardens at Fox Run, an Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich. Ask how many hours a day and how many days a week you will receive therapy, Suneja says. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists are usually on-site, but if you need other specialized services, make sure they re available. You may be staying for a few weeks, so if you need to see a dietitian, mental health professional, or ophthalmologist, find out who can make in-house visits, she adds. Communication among staff is paramount to good care. A well-coordinated interdisciplinary rehabilitation team is something you should look for, says Holly Henderson, health care sales manager for Renaissance Gardens at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va. Your therapists and doctors should be discussing your care regularly to help you reach your goals. Having up-to-date technology like electronic medical records can help facilitate communication among people providing your care, Brennan adds. Follow-up is important. Most people don t stay until they are fully recovered, Suneja says. A solid aftercare plan should be in place before you go home.

How to assess quality

It s important to know how quality of care is monitored, Suneja says. Ask to see a copy of the most recent inspection report. If any deficiencies were found, ask how they have been corrected. You can find information about most SNFs This tool has detailed information about every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country, including five-star quality ratings, health inspection results, staff data, quality measures, and fire safety inspection results.

Little extras count

Rehabilitation is hard work, so you need to have a place where you can rest and relax. Having a private room can make your stay more comfortable, Henderson says. Not may SNFs have them you may have to ask around to find one. Good food can enhance your SNF experience. Renaissance Gardens has an on-site chef dedicated to preparing nutritious and tasty meals, says Brennan. A friendly, courteous, and well-trained staff can mean the difference between a good experience and a bad one, she adds.

Skilled nursing ' facilities: additional resources

  • Your local area agency on aging check your telephone book or visit the Administration on Aging at to find one.
  • Your local consumer affairs office or state health department.
  • Your state s Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Ombudsmen visit skilled nursing facilities and speak with residents throughout the year to make sure residents rights are protected. Call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) to find an ombudsman in your state.
  • The Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (weekdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern) or visit