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Skilled nursing vs rehabilitation: What’s the difference?

Skilled nursing vs rehab for seniors

Many older adults need a little extra help when recovering from illness, injury, stroke or surgery. After a hospital stay, it may be necessary to complete a rehabilitation program in order to regain strength, manage pain and improve mobility, balance and flexibility before a patient returns home.

There are a variety of options for this type of transitional rehabilitation that can be accessed at home, at a skilled nursing facility, or at a rehab center. Both skilled nursing and rehab care focus on helping seniors recover and restore function, so they can return to normal life sooner and live as independently as possible.

It’s important to know the differences between a skilled nursing community and a rehab center. Each provides similar rehab services, but the intensity of programs may differ. According to Skilled Nursing News, the average length of stay in skilled nursing is between 20-38 days, while the average length of stay for inpatient rehab is 12.4 days according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Because there are different types of services and care, it’s best to speak with a doctor, to discuss rehab goals and expectations, and to learn as much possible about the services. When it comes to getting the most out of a rehabilitation program, consider the whole package — program intensity, length of stay, access to specialists and medical equipment, and costs and coverage. When you understand the options, the expectations, and the timeline of intended recovery, it’s easier to make the right decision for yourself, a family member or someone in your care.

 What is skilled nursing?

After a qualifying hospital stay for an illness, injury or surgery, the qualified medical professionals at Topeka Presbyterian Manor provide transitional care or Skilled Nursing before you return home. Around-the-clock care —whether you need it for short-term recovery or for the long term — is provided. Specialized medical care is provided by our highly trained nurses at Topeka PresbyterianManor and our therapy services are offered on-site with our partners AegisTherapies®. Together, we’re here to help get back residents back to the life they want to live.

The most common diagnoses seen at skilled nursing facilities are strokes, brain injuries, orthopedic injuries (typically after a fall), UTIs, post-joint replacement surgery, cancer, pneumonia, or other acute cardio-pulmonary dysfunction. Examples of skilled nursing services may include wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, specialized medical equipment, and monitoring vital signs. The skilled nursing program at Topeka Presbyterian Manor strives to consistently receive the highest ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Skilled nursing is part of an overarching level of care which can overlap with other levels of care or heath needs.

At most senior living communities, skilled nursing is a higher level of care and must be provided by trained individuals, such as licensed physicians, registered nurses (RNs) and physical, speech and occupational therapists. A licensed physician often supervises each patient’s care plan, and a highly qualified team of RNs, LPNs and certified nurses’ aides (CNAs) provides round-the-clock nursing care at both a skilled nursing facility and a rehab center. Whether the need is for short-term recovery from a hospital stay, for the longer-term, or for palliative care, the goal is to improve quality of life.

Skilled nursing services that help seniors following an acute hospital stay include the following:

  • Therapy Services: Physical,Occupational and Speech therapies help residents and patients build strength and coordination, improve balance, manage chronic pain, regain motor skills, and improve memory, hearing and listening skills.
  • Post Cardiac Rehab: For patients recovering from heart disease or a cardiac-related surgery, a post-cardiac event rehab program can help achieve optimum recovery and regain health.
  • Orthopedic Rehab: An orthopedic rehab program offers the combined therapeutic, clinical and technical resources to address a wide range of conditions including joint replacement, fractures, cervical and lumbar injuries, arthritis and osteoporosis, and amputations.
  • Neurological and Stroke Rehab: Specialized stroke rehabilitation is designed to help restore patients to optimal levels while also helping to compensate for decreased capabilities. Treatment combines physical, occupational and speech therapies along with balance and mobility training, psychological support and dysphasia therapy.

Key Differences of a Skilled Nursing and a Rehab Center

Short-term rehabilitation at both a skilled nursing or a rehab center can bridge the gap from hospital to home. Rehab services are offered at both skilled nursing facilities and rehab centers. At senior communities like Topeka Presbyterian Manor, some of the services can overlap because skilled nursing is part of an overarching level of care, however there are differences. Here are a few things to know when choosing between skilled nursing vs rehab:

  • Program intensity: One the key differences between a skilled nursing facility and rehab center duration and intensity services and therapies each day. In a skilled nursing facility the minimum average amount of time a patient receives therapies each day is one to two hours. At a rehab center, there’s a minimum of three hours of rehab therapies per day for patients — this often equates to shorter overall stays and faster recovery times at a rehab center.
  • Length of stay in as killed nursing facility and a rehab center: Skilled nursing facilities focus on longer-term care for individuals who require a higher level of medical care. Inpatient rehab centers focus more on acute care and rehabilitation for patients who are more motivated to return home quickly but who need intensive and immediate treatment to facilitate recovery. Patients who choose rehabilitation at a rehab centers statistically have a shorter stay than those who opt for rehab at skilled nursing facilities.
  • Access to Specialized Staff: At a skilled nursing facility, the care team is specialized in long-term care and is supervised by registered nurses. At a rehab center, the registered nursing teams specialize in rehabilitative care, plus there’s more access to physicians. At a rehab center, a physician meets with patient to oversee progress at least 3 times a week. Patients who have more complex rehabilitation needs may benefit more with more daily access to the attending physician and the specialists at an inpatient rehab center.

 What is a senior rehabilitation center?

A rehabilitation center is a stand-alone facility that only provides short-term skilled nursing care and rehabilitative care for patients, or it can refer to the rehabilitation facility within a nursing home or senior living community. When you, a family member or someone in your care is ready to be discharged from the hospital and needs rehabilitation to recover fully, a rehabilitation center offers a variety of treatment options. Rehabilitation therapies and skilled care can be provided inpatient’s home, in a rehabilitation center as an outpatient, or in are habilitation center as an inpatient.

Rehab at a rehabilitation center aims to get patients back on their feet as safely and quickly as possible. The goal at a rehab center is to help seniors make a smooth transition back into society as soon as possible. Rehab facilities are regulated and certified by the state and federal government. Programs for patients include physical therapy to improve balance and mobility and increase strength coordination, occupational therapy to assist with adaptive equipment or improve fine motor skills, and speech therapy to help with conditions that affect communication and memory problems.

In some cases, rehabilitation centers work together with skilled nursing facilities and the care is intertwined. A patient may start in a rehab center and transition into a more permanent skilled nursing facility or senior living community if needs change.

 In Conclusion

Choosing a rehabilitation provider is challenging. A not-for-profit organization like Topeka Presbyterian Manor provides quality senior services guided by Christian values. That means in addition to the skilled nursing levels of care for seniors being discharged from hospital, there’s an added level compassion and dedication in a warm and loving environment. No matter if your needs are for temporary services or you’re looking for a new home in a long-term care facility, choosing the right location is very important.

Before leaving the hospital, make sure you understand the extent your next steps. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor questions about your current and future care needs.Request a meeting with a patient advocate to discuss discharge planning, and be sure to make in-person visits to evaluate rehab options.

Both Skilled Nursing Facilities and Rehab Centers provide many of the same rehab services, but there are some key differences.

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