Injured? How to Choose a Rehab Facility

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on December 12, 2017

What if you were in a car accident, or your mother had a stroke, and you each needed intensive therapy to recover?

Where would you turn?

When life’s accidents occur, we often feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

But to the extent that you can ever prepare for such events, it may help to know that resources are available in our region to help you—or your mother—get back on your feet.

After an accident or illness that requires intensive therapy, you may want to consider checking in to a rehabilitation center. It’s usually where you can make the greatest gains in the shortest time.

That’s especially true if your family can’t handle your rehab at home.

How do you choose a rehab center?

“The first question is what level of intensity you need,” said Jeff Coleman, M.P.T., manager of Carilion Inpatient Rehabilitation Therapy Services at Carilion Community Hospital.

Inpatient rehabilitation is the most-intensive option, with generally more therapy provided and 24/7 medical support.

If you’re unable to tolerate the environment or do not qualify, skilled nursing facilities are another option. These are rehabilitation centers usually located within nursing homes, and they vary in the intensity of therapy offered.

“Both can serve a function depending on your needs,” Coleman said.

Inpatient rehab centers have stricter guidelines about who is eligible, since the therapy must be deemed to medically require that level of care, and a patient must be able to tolerate at least three hours of therapy daily.

The length of stay there is generally shorter than in a skilled nursing facility due to the intensity of therapy. (Many insurers will cover such care.)

When evaluating a rehab center, Coleman suggests you check:

  • The technology available
  • Privacy of rooms
  • Staffing ratios
  • Availability of specialized programs
  • Physician availability
  • Friendliness and helpfulness of staff
  • Cleanliness of the center

What should you look for in technology resources? “Centers with more advanced technology will likely have more advanced therapy, hopefully leading to better outcomes and more efficient care,” said Coleman. “Facilities with technology related to patient safety, such as mechanical lifts and updated wheelchairs, also indicate a commitment to safety for both patients and staff."

The privacy and space available in each room are also key since rest is so important in healing. Keeping rehab patients separate from nursing home residents in nursing facilities should be another concern.

Staffing ratios matter because you want to make sure the staff isn’t overburdened and will have the time and energy to help you recover.

“For instance, our nurses are only assigned five to six patients each during the day shift, which allows them to be more available when needs arise,” Coleman said.

As for specialized programs, look for those that treat your particular needs, such as rehab for stroke, a spinal cord injury, a brain injury or Parkinson’s disease.

A stroke patient, for instance, would initially need to be examined by a rehabilitation physician. He or she would also be examined and aided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and rehab nurse.

Your doctor can help guide you in finding the specialized programs you need.

A patient’s length of stay, of course, would depend on their condition and what caregiving options they have at home.

“Studies do show improved outcomes and quality of life for patients who choose inpatient rehabilitation,” said Coleman. “They are likely to get the most comprehensive and advanced care available.”

So if you or a loved one ever need intensive rehab, you’ll have options—and choices. By asking the right questions, you can make the right choice for you.

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