What You Need to Know About Subacute Rehab

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So it’s time to leave the hospital – what’s next? Many patients recovering from illness, injury, or a surgical procedure are ready to be discharged from a hospital (acute care) but are not ready to return home. Some patients may need more carefully supervised rehabilitation, while others may lack the support system at home that they need to fully recover. In these cases, physicians will often discharge their patients to a subacute care facility where patients can continue their therapies and receive the medical attention they need, without all of the expense and stress of a lengthy hospital stay.

What is subacute rehab?

Where a hospital is considered an “acute care” setting, requiring more intensive clinical treatment and monitoring, subacute rehab is most often a department within a skilled nursing facility where patients can be monitored and have access to a wide range of therapies and clinical education to aid in their recovery.

The goal of subacute rehab is to return an individual home, or to a lower level of care as quickly as possible and restore their physical abilities.

How do I know if I need subacute rehab?

Subacute or post-surgical rehabilitation is recommended by your physician, based on your medical needs. For planned surgeries, you’ll know in advance if your recovery will require you to rehab in a subacute setting, or if you can plan to rehab in your home, with additional support. For unplanned medical events, such as a heart attack or stroke, your hospital physician and/or discharge planner would be the one to recommend subacute care.

Situations that may require subacute rehab include orthopedic surgeries and recovery from hip fractures, falls, heart attacks and strokes. For the medically frail or those who do not have a fulltime caregiver at home, a subacute setting may be recommended in order to receive the level of care needed for a successful recovery, in a medically-supervised environment. 

“Discussing your options following surgery is an important step,” says Dennis Ng, director of rehabilitation services at Elderwood. “Our interdisciplinary care team creates a customized rehabilitation plan – often started before you’ve arrived – and provides all the skill and encouragement you need to help you regain your independence.”

What to expect during a subacute rehab stay

For many, the thought of staying in a rehab facility away from home can be scary and unsettling. Knowing a little bit more about what to expect can help you or your loved one to feel prepared and confident on your road to recovery.

Often times, subacute stays are less than 30 days, but the goal is to return home safely and as fully recovered as possible. Subacute rehab facilities have a team of nurses and therapists who work collaboratively with your doctor in order to make sure your care plan is customized to meet your personal goals. Your treatment plan may include all or some of the below therapies, which you’ll receive on-site.

  • Physical therapy helps people to regain strength and range of motion. The most common type of physical therapy is orthopedic therapy, which focuses on regaining functionality of important muscles, bones, joints and tendons. Physical therapy is also used in cardiac, and stroke recovery, helping the patient relearn movement, coordination and other skills that may have been lost.
  • Speech therapy helps people who have problems producing or understanding speech, which is also common among stroke patients.
  • Occupational therapy focuses on improving movements required for daily activities, such as eating, drinking, dressing, bathing, reading, and writing.
  • Cardiac Rehab is a medically supervised program designed to improve cardiovascular health after a cardiac event such as a heart attack.

Most subacute rehab facilities have gyms with a variety of equipment and technology to help you recover faster. All meals are provided at a subacute rehab facility, and dietary modifications can be made based on your needs, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Going home after subacute rehab

When you are ready to go home, your nursing and therapy team will discuss your follow up instructions with you in detail and provide you with a discharge packet. All recommendations for your continued recovery will be coordinated with your doctor and may include additional home care or outpatient therapies. Following any recommended exercises and staying within your limits is important to help you recover and regain your quality of life.

For specific questions regarding your care options, be sure to check with your doctor or hospital discharge planner. To learn more about subacute rehab options near you, click here.