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How to Choose a Rehabilitation Facility

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021

A rehabilitation facility is a place you or a loved one might stay after an injury or surgery. They usually offer treatment plans to get you back on your feet, in addition to other activities that promote well-being and general health.

In this type of facility, doctors visit daily. The main type of physician available is a physiatrist, also known as a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor. There are also often neuropsychologists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, and occupational therapists available.

Tips for Choosing a Rehab Facility

There may be several different options for rehabilitation centers in your community. How can you choose the best one for you? Consider the following tips:

Ask about specialties. Different rehabilitation centers have different specialties, like spinal cord injury recovery or cardiac recovery. Make sure the one you choose has the ability and experience to work with your specific situation.

Ask how many patients the facility has treated with similar conditions to yours to get an idea of their level of experience.

Consider your insurance coverage. Before choosing a facility, check with your insurance to find out what will be covered. That way, there will be no surprise bills after your stay.

Many facilities have administrative specialists who can help you with this.

Find out how much therapy is offered. To be a licensed rehabilitation facility, the center must offer at least 3 hours of therapeutic treatment 5 days a week. Find out if therapy beyond those 3 hours is available, and if the facility can accommodate any special needs you may have about the timing of treatment.

Ask about staff qualifications. Find out what percentage of the staff is board-certified, and whether or not nurses are trained in acute care. Ask what percentage of the nursing staff are registered nurses versus vocational nurses or certified nursing assistants.

Find out if both group and individual therapy programs are available. Some people prefer individual appointments for rehabilitation therapies, while others don't mind group settings. Group appointments may have social benefits because you can talk to people going through a similar experience. Make sure the rehab facility you choose has the options you prefer.

Ask about outcomes. The average stay at a rehabilitation facility is 12 days. Find out if the outcomes of the facility are in line with that.

You can also look up reviews and testimonials to see what past clients of the facility thought of their stay.

Find out about visitation policies. If you plan to have your family involved in your care, find out about the visitation policies of the facility.

Some facilities even encourage family involvement by allowing your loved ones to participate in meetings to plan care or watch therapy sessions.

Make sure the facility is accredited by CARF. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is a non-profit organization that gives accreditation to this type of facility. Accreditation ensures that a center's services and facilities are up to a certain standard.

Some facilities are also certified by The Joint Commission, an organization that evaluates various types of healthcare facilities for adherence to a set of standards.

Rehabilitation Facility Vs. Skilled Nursing Facility

You might wonder if a rehab facility or a skilled nursing facility is where you need to go. They both provide care for people on a 24-hour basis, but they also have key differences:

  • Length of stay. Average stays at skilled nursing facilities can be as high as 60 days. The average stay at a rehabilitation facility is less than 2 weeks.
  • Frequency of doctor visits. At a rehab facility, you usually see a doctor every day. At a nursing facility, you might see a doctor once a week.
  • Amount of therapy. Skilled nursing facilities offer 1-2 hours of therapy per day, while rehabilitation facilities offer 3 hours.
  • Resources on site. Rehabilitation centers often have radiology centers and laboratories on site. They also have a doctor available 24 hours a day, and other types of doctors and professionals available on a daily basis. Skilled nursing facilities are more likely to have limited radiology and lab services available. They also have a more limited availability of doctors.
  • Function of the facility. Rehabilitation centers usually provide a more complex level of care than skilled nursing facilities. They also focus on educating you and your family about how to continue your rehabilitation at home. Skilled nursing facilities focus more on supporting you while you are at the facility.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "10 Tips to Help You Choose a Rehab Facility."

Jefferson Health: "HOW TO CHOOSE A REHABILITATION HOSPITAL."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Choosing a Rehabilitation Unit/CARF."

The Joint Commission: "Standards."

UP Health System Marquette: "Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit (IRU) vs Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)."

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