Nursing homes, convalescent homes, rest homes: these terms are often used interchangeably but there are differences in the type of care provided at each facility. The term "continuum care facility" is also used to describe a nursing home or rehabilitation facility. These facilities can be free standing or part of a hospital unit and provide short-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapy to patients who are recovering from an injury, surgery or stroke.
Convalescent homes are more commonly called inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF). These facilities are primarily designed to provide a homelike environment while patients recover from long-term illnesses or medical procedures.
Inpatient Rehabilitation or Continuum Care Facilities
A senior needing short-term care, usually including rehabilitation services such as physical, speech or occupational therapy, and some medical attention, will most often stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF). The reason for their stay might be because of surgery, fractures, a stroke or hospitalization for illness which requires continuous care, as well as more intensive and consistent therapy, than an outpatient situation would allow.
As detailed by the American Physical Therapy Association, the benefits of physical therapy for seniors are becoming more and more apparent. Research shows that recovering from hip and knee replacements, strokes and even dementia is much more successful and complete when consistent physical and occupational therapy is available.
Nursing Homes and Rest Homes
When safe and fulfilling daily living becomes impossible in a senior's home, it may time to consider a nursing or rest home. When activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and personal care, shopping, preparing meals become challenging or when there is progressive physical or mental deterioration, it may be time to consider assisted living, memory care or a nursing home.
A hospital social worker or physician may be helpful in such a discussion because this is clearly an emotional and difficult life transition for everyone involved. Generally, a nursing home provides medical care and closely supervised nursing care, and may serve a resident as short-term rehabilitation (similar to inpatient rehabilitation) or long term, if necessary.
Payment Basics for Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities and Nursing Homes
Medicare payments to inpatient rehabilitation facilities, which can be either free-standing facilities or hospital-based units, were estimated at $5.6 billion in 2007 or about 70% of the admitted patients. The coverage depends on whether the admission is directly following a hospital stay or from the community.
Nursing home costs can be covered by Medicare for a designated time in a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility following a three-day hospital stay. About half of long-term patients in nursing homes are self-pay. Long-term care insurance policies vary widely, but the purpose of most policies is to offer nursing home or living assistance coverage.
Carefully researching the choices for short-term and long-term rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes is becoming more important as statistics show that, while approximately 19% of those over 65 will need some living assistance, the percentage increases to 55% for those over age 85. It is important for every individual to know the options before the potential need arises.
Written by senior housing writer Marky Olson.