Choosing a short term rehab center is not exactly like booking a hotel for a business trip, but there are certain similarities that can help make sure that you’re helping mom or dad pick the right program and center. Because a limited stay in rehab is often an interim step between hospitalization and a return home, it can be wise to explore short term rehab facilities in advance of need. Even though, statistically, most people don't expect to need surgery within the next year, a little early planning can't hurt. Some upfront knowledge can be the difference between an unpleasant experience or successful program if care arrangements must be made quickly.
How to Choose a Community
First, and most importantly, understand that rehabilitation is often a vital part of the recovery process, whatever your parent’s needs may be —physical therapy and exercise, nutritional guidance, speech therapy or daily injections and medication monitoring. The active pursuit of wellbeing should be forefront in your mind. And it is critical that the program and campus you choose is well-prepared to provide the personalized care your parent needs to make a full recovery—whether they require additional help following a routine surgery, rehabilitation following a stroke or heart attack, or a temporary stay to allow full healing after a traumatic injury.
It is important to realize that short-term rehab is not the same as long-term care, just as a favorite hotel may be very different in character from your home. The environment, level of service and the ability of the staff to meet specific needs can differ depending on the center or community in which your elderly loved one undergoes therapy. A purpose-built rehab center, for example, will differ in services and amenities from a therapy program offered within a retirement community.
While physical facilities should be clean, safe and attractive, the "star quality" of the facility is less important than a highly-trained staff that provides a full range of comprehensive services. Welcoming smiles, quick response to patient needs and a caring attitude are much more conducive to health than shiny, modern surroundings in the latest color scheme.
Don't let a pretty face win out over inner character.
That said, however, there are a few less tangible features of a rehab center that can make a difference in recovery that you shouldn't overlook:
- The Sense of the Place. Assess how the building and grounds look. Are they attractive and well-maintained? Is staff welcoming, well-groomed and attentive? Does it smell good, without any lingering food odors or antiseptic smells? Does housekeeping seem efficient, with no dishes, medical carts or cleaning supplies left visible in rooms or hallways? Do short term residents who are ambulatory have access to common areas, a library or music room, a snack room?
- The Purpose of the Place. Some senior care communities have separate wings for short term rehab. Some are dedicated exclusively to limited stays. And still others integrate short term patients with other residents, including those who bedridden and suffering from dementia. If the goal is to get well and get out, try to match those needs with a care facility that will spare no effort to help you accomplish that goal. It can be depressing for a senior who simply needs exercise following hip surgery to be thrown in with permanent residents who can't move at all.
- The Extras Offered. A garden to look at or to sit in. Fresh flowers on the breakfast tray. Comfortable chairs for visitors. Books, television and music. A way to keep the mind active. A reason to "get out of bed." Always take a tour of rooms as well as common areas, therapy rooms and the grounds. Look for smiles—from staff as well as patients—and observe the interaction.
Choosing the proper short term rehab option is one of the best possible ways to assure the long term wellness of a parent, so don't make a hasty decision.