What happens when you experience a sudden change in your ability to care for yourself? What do you do when it’s time to leave the hospital, but you’re not back to your baseline? There are many different levels of care available for seniors—so what’s the next step? A stay at a sub-acute care facility might be right for you.
Sub-acute care for seniors is just what it sounds like: a level of care that is below a stay at a hospital but at a greater level than is provided at home or in an assisted living facility. A sub-acute facility provides nursing services and physician oversight, as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other ancillary services.
The ultimate goal of care at a sub-acute nursing facility is to return you to your previous living situation, whether that be independent or in an assisted living community. This type of care is ideal for you if you have experienced a temporary downturn in your health status but expect to return to your previous baseline functioning. This is different from assisted living, which provides continued support for those who cannot live alone and who can no longer care for themselves.
Sub-acute care may not be the answer for every senior. Those whose injuries or illnesses are expected to have permanent effects may benefit from a different type of living situation, such as moving into an assisted living or nursing facility. Other seniors may be able to withstand more rigorous treatment and may benefit more from acute care. So when do you need sub-acute care and rehabilitation? Who benefits the most?
Those who have experienced an injury. Whether you’ve been hurt in a fall or an accident, a major injury decreases your ability to care for yourself. A broken bone or soft-tissue injury can severely hamper your mobility. Lower back or leg injuries can impede something as simple as getting a drink of water. Upper back, neck, or arm injuries impede eating, dressing, and bathing. If you can’t bear your own weight, you’ll need help to the bathroom, in the kitchen, and moving from place to place. For those who live alone, this poses a major problem. Your injuries might no longer warrant a hospital stay, but in-home care twenty-four hours a day is impractical and expensive. A short-term stay in a sub-acute setting is a practical solution; the setting is designed to facilitate your recovery and return you home. As an added bonus, the care provided in a sub-acute facility allows you to get stronger before returning home. This provides multiple safety benefits, such as a reduced risk of falling and getting hurt again.
Those who have experienced an illness. A long-term stay in a hospital due to illness often means spending most of your time in bed. This inactivity results in a decrease in fitness and impacts your overall conditioning—and the effects happen more rapidly for seniors. This makes sub-acute care a beneficial option for seniors who have recently been hospitalized. Sub-acute care keeps you safe with medical providers supervising your recovery and help readily available when you call. Additionally, your whole care team will be located in the sub-acute facility, including occupational, physical, and speech therapists. No need to travel to therapy locations or arrange a ride to your doctor’s appointments; it’s all coordinated by the staff.
Those who are recovering from surgery. Surgeries (particularly joint replacements) require intensive physical therapy for the best results—but hospital recoveries are no longer an option for seniors who undergo therapy. Now, patients are quickly discharged from the hospital if no complications arise. But what if you need help for longer than is covered by your hospital stay? This is where sub-acute care comes in. Sub-acute care provides you with the temporary help you need with activities of daily living. Physical and occupational therapy can work with you to become stronger so that you maximize the benefit of the surgery. Because your therapy is coordinated by a care team, you advance your recovery at the fastest pace possible.
Recovery from injury, illness, or surgery can be a complex, difficult process, but a stay at a sub-acute care facility can make it easier. If you or a loved one are considering a stay at a nursing home to receive sub-acute services, download our free nursing home checklist. It will help you ask the right questions on your next nursing home tour so you can be sure you’re getting the best care available.