Helping a loved one recover after a hospitalization can be very challenging, especially if they require follow-up medical attention after being discharged. Many older adults require what’s called “post-acute care” to guide and support them through their recovery journey after they leave the hospital. Though it can be difficult to identify the best post-acute care option to fit the patient’s needs, high-quality post-acute care is key to ensuring a healthy recuperation after an injury or illness. Better follow-up care can decrease out-of-pocket healthcare costs and lower the chances of the patient returning to the hospital due to health complications.
Coordinating post-acute care is an important responsibility for a caregiver, however, it can also be one of the most difficult to navigate parts of healthcare. By taking advantage of online resources, you can make an informed decision and make sure that your loved one is getting the right care that addresses their unique needs. Additionally, a case manager that’s assigned during hospital discharge can be a good support system to help find a post-acute care provider that matches your loved one’s needs.
There are several types of follow-up care that fall into four main categories of post-acute care providers. Each type of provider offers varying degrees of medical services in different settings.
- Patients who are able to return home but still require some degree of medical care can receive care through home health care agencies. These agencies send licensed nurses or home health aides 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.
- Patients who no longer need to be in a hospital setting but still require a higher level of medical care than can be provided in a home can receive care at a skilled nursing facility. Skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs, are residential healthcare locations that provide services such as physical/occupational rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, and complex wound care.
- Another type of residential healthcare facilities are inpatient rehabilitation facilities. At these locations, patients receive intensive hospital-level care for complex conditions such as spinal cord diseases or traumatic brain injuries. Common services provided through inpatient rehabilitation facilities include stroke rehabilitation and prosthetic services.
- Long term care hospitals offer high level medical care similar to the care provided at a traditional hospital or intensive care units, however patients can stay at these locations for a longer period of time (usually a month). Common services provided at long term care hospitals include ventilator care, intravenous (IV) therapy, and dialysis.
After deciding on a post-acute care provider type, consider the following aspects to help you and your loved one further narrow down your options:
- Understand the medical needs by talking to your loved one’s care team to identify the best follow-up care options. If your loved one has a specific medical condition (diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.), you can narrow down your search based on specialty services offered through the provider.
- Verify insurance coverage to ensure that the post-acute care provider and the treatment are both covered under the patient’s insurance policy.
- Compare Medicare quality data, health inspection reports, patient reviews, and other key information to further evaluate follow-up care providers.
- If possible, visit the location and talk to staff members to discuss how patient needs will be addressed and how they handle different situations. Speak with current employees and residents about their experiences and assess the facility’s cleanliness and amenity options.
The post-hospital recovery journey can be a demanding and emotional process for both the patient and the caregiver. It’s common to feel overwhelmed when navigating post-acute care, but you’re not alone. This is an issue that many caregivers struggle with, and there are many online communities and discussion boards that can be great resources to gain insight into post-acute care and learn from others’ experiences. As with so many topics in caregiving, don’t be afraid to look for and ask for support. You are not alone!
About the Author
Preeya D’Mello works at Repisodic, a healthcare company that helps patients, families, and caregivers find the highest quality personalized post-acute care. After graduating with a degree in Biomedical Engineering and working at a medical device company, Preeya is excited to be working closer to patient care by building out her company’s free consumer products and resources.
You can find more info about the company at the following links:
- Website: repisodic.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/repisodic/
- Twitter: @repisodicinc
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