One of the most challenging experiences for caregivers can be managing the recovery and rehabilitation process after their loved one is hospitalized. Often, it’s not the hospitalization that is most difficult, but the specialized follow-up care that many seniors require to avoid complications or readmission into the hospital.
This follow-up care, called post-acute care, is one of the most important parts on the road to recovery. It’s also one of the most misunderstood and difficult to navigate parts of the healthcare system. Patients who receive high-quality post-acute care after an injury or illness experience better and faster recoveries. This often leads to lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs for the patient and their family.
Usually, your healthcare provider will inform you of the follow-up care your loved one will need upon admission to the hospital. Sometimes, however, you may not find out what services are needed until your loved one is being discharged. For these time-constrained and stressful situations, it’s important that you make an informed decision so your loved one has the optimum recovery. Patients are often assigned a case manager who can guide you through the post-acute care process and coordinate recovery as the patient transitions from the hospital back to their home. The case manager can be a great resource to discuss post-acute care options.
To ensure that your loved one gets the best post-acute care for their condition, it’s important to understand the different options and identify what best suits the patient’s needs. There are four main types of post-acute care – each provides unique services in different settings.
- Home health care agencies send medical professionals to patients’ homes so patients can receive skilled nursing and rehabilitation without going to a hospital or residential facility. Common services provided through home health care are wound care, physical therapy, and injections.
- Skilled nursing facilities are residential healthcare locations for patients who no longer need to be in a hospital but require a higher level of medical care than can be provided at home. Common services provided at a skilled nursing facility include physical/occupational rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, and complex wound care.
- Inpatient rehabilitation facilities are residential healthcare locations that provide intensive hospital-level care for patients with complex conditions such as spinal cord diseases or traumatic brain injuries. Common services provided through inpatient rehabilitation facilities include physical therapy and stroke rehabilitation.
- Long term care hospitals offer the same level of round-the-clock care as traditional hospitals or intensive care units, but over a longer period of time (usually a month). Common services provided at long term care hospitals include ventilator care, intravenous therapy, and dialysis.
After determining the type of post-acute care provider best fits the patient’s needs, there are some other important factors to consider before making a decision.
- Meet with a medical professional to understand the medical needs and determine the best post-acute care option for your loved one. If your loved one has a specific medical condition (diabetes, chronic disease, Alzheimer’s), you can narrow down your search based on specialty services offered through the provider.
- Verify insurance coverage to make sure that the post-acute care facility is within the patient’s insurance network and that the treatment is covered under the insurance policy.
- When evaluating healthcare providers, it’s important to compare Medicare quality data and other key information such as patient reviews and health inspection reports.
- Talk to staff members at the provider to discuss patient care plans, how patient needs will be addressed, and how they handle different situations. If possible, visit the location and talk to current employees and residents about their experiences. Evaluate the facility’s cleanliness, amenity options, and medical specializations.
Navigating follow-up care is a challenging and emotional process. Be sure to support your loved one and yourself through the decision-making process. There are many online communities and discussion forums to find out more about post-acute care and learn from others’ experiences to make the most of the recovery journey.
Ryan Miller is co-founder of repisodic, a healthcare company that helps patients, families and healthcare professionals find the highest quality, personalized post-acute care. repisodic provides free, comprehensive profiles of every post-acute care provider (skilled nursing, home health care, nursing homes, etc.) in the country in addition to resources such as guides and articles on a variety of healthcare topics.