Research shows that seniors recovering from knee or hip surgery have fewer complications recuperating at home instead of in a rehab facility, but what about those don’t have this option? Many seniors and their families are being pressured by hospital staff to select a rehab facility without enough time or information to choose wisely, potentially putting themselves at risk of receiving substandard care.
Choosing a Rehab Facility Can Be Daunting
In a recent Kaiser article written by Judith Graham, she writes, “Every year nearly 2 million people on Medicare — most of them older adults — go to a skilled nursing facility to recover after a hospitalization. But choosing the facility can be daunting, according to an emerging body of research.” As Graham explains, a nurse or a social worker will typically hand the patient and their family a long list of nearby facilities. Typically, the patient receives this list only a day or even hours before discharge. “Families scramble to make calls and, if they can find the time, visit a few places,” says the article, but they’re not given enough time or information to make an informed choice.
Often the family is not sure what the plan of care will be or what to expect. Such as, what will recovery entail, how long will that take, whether nurses and doctors will be readily available, all the therapy options, or how much it will cost? Many of these questions are completely overlooked, but one of the biggest omissions from the list, is any indicator of quality. The list rarely includes essential information about the services offered or what type of care quality you can expect. In other words, patients must make critical decisions under extreme pressures, armed with insufficient and unreliable information.
Choosing a Rehab Facility can be Stressful and Confusing
This leaves patients and families without quality guidance at a vulnerable point in their care trajectory. During a highly stressful and confusing time, uninformed patients and families often make poor choices. In 2018 the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reviewed this issue and found that almost seven out of eight Medicare beneficiaries sent from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility for rehab chose a lower-rated care facility when higher-rated providers were available within 15 miles. It’s not that families didn’t have choices, on average patients receive a list of 34 short-term rehab facilities, it’s just that patients lack the time and data to make informed choices. As the MedPAC report suggests, recovering seniors who are discharged to poorly-run rehab facilities are at risk of complications such as infections or medication errors, and because they may not be receiving the proper rehabilitation or therapy they need, it adversely affects their recovery. Because of this, many times the patient is unable to return home and could potentially end up as a permanent nursing home.
Choosing a Rehab Facility: Pre-Planning is Essential
There’s a lot to this issue, and we recommend families read the Kaiser Health News article for some of the details and some helpful links to related resources.
It’s important to get information early. Families should insist on seeing a discharge planner soon after entering the hospital and start the planning process long before the discharge date. Be insistent and keep asking what options are best for the patient.
Planning for your future as you age involves preparing for decisions like this, and that means honest communication with your loved ones and careful preparation to ensure you receive the type of medical care you need. These two elements – family and medical – combined with a solid financial plan, a carefully-crafted legal strategy, and a well thought out approach to your housing needs as you age are all part of planning for your future.
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