A Guide to Healthy Aging

Author

Encompass Health

Posted on

Jul 25, 2023

Book/Edition

Florida - Sarasota, Bradenton & Charlotte Counties

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A Letter from Dr. Lisa Charbonneau, Encompass Health Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Lisa Charbonneau

Healthcare is complicated. At Encompass Health, we understand that and want to make it a little less complicated. In this guide we want to equip you with the information and tools you need to make the best decisions for your health as you or a loved one ages. 

Yes, healthcare can be complicated, and it tends to get more complicated as you age, but a little knowledge and some advanced planning can go a long way in navigating you or a loved one’s care in your 60s and beyond.

In This Post You You Will Learn:

  • How to Better Talk to and Understand Your Doctor
  • How to Pick the Right Medicare Plan for You
  • What are Your Rights as a Patient
  • What the Different Settings of Care Are

Cutting through the Medical Jargon: How to Talk to Your Doctor

Sometimes, interpreting a doctor’s medical jargon can feel like trying to understand a foreign language.

Most patients and families, don’t want to admit they don’t understand when a doctor begins explaining a complicated illness or condition, and instead sit quietly nodding in affirmation.

Jargon is pervasive in all professions, but it has its greatest impact when doctors try to communicate with patients. People’s lives are at stake. Healthcare professionals have their own verbal shorthand that may be highly effective when they speak to each other but causes confusion when used with laymen.

The use of jargon begins in medical school. A medical student can quickly rattle off that, “Mrs. Jones had a syncopal episode last night without any evidence of arrhythmia. I don’t think it was vagal but I ordered a 2D echo and holter. I still can’t rule out a vertebrobasilar event.” Everyone wearing a white coat understands this secret language, but as a patient lying in the bed, you may feel terrified and confused.

Medical Jargon is Everywhere

The average American reads and speaks at an eighth- or ninth-grade level, yet doctors assume that their patients will understand their obscure communication.

Multiple studies have looked at the use of jargon by doctors and the failure of patients to understand them. One study of 249 emergency room patients reported
that 79% did not know that the word hemorrhage was the same as bleeding and 78% did not know that a fracture was a broken bone. In case you think these were illiterate, underprivileged people, 45% of the people in the study were college educated. We cannot assume that the lawyer or English professor has any more understanding than someone with less education.

What Can You Do to Interpret the Medical Speak?

There are some steps that you and your families can take so you don’t fall into the same trap that so many do. One simple program is the “Ask Me 3” program that provides you with three questions to ask your doctor.

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Unfortunately, you may still get jargon-packed answers. So, here are a few more tips to make sure you walk away with a clear understanding of your problems.

  • If you do not understand what your doctor is saying, immediately stop them and ask them to use simpler language. Don’t pretend that you understand when you do not.
  • Tell the doctor what you think they said to be certain that you understood them. This is called a “teach back.”
  • If you feel you need more time, ask to schedule another visit in the near future. This may be a telehealth visit and you will have the opportunity to have others listen in and help you.
  • If the doctor is busy, ask if there is a nurse or assistant who can answer your questions.
  • Take a trusted friend with you for another set of ears and even to take notes.
  • Ask who you can call if you still have questions when you get home.

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Understanding Medicare

Couple selecting a Medicare plan

If you or a loved one are nearing the Medicare age but are unsure what this benefit provides or the plan that is best for you, we are here to help you understand your options. Medicare is the national insurance program for adults age 65 and older. It’s also a benefit most working adults pay for throughout their lifetime.

Throughout the years, Medicare has evolved and extended the amount of plans available. Understand your options now, so you can pick the best plan for you or your loved one when the time comes.

What to Consider When Picking a Plan

When it comes to deciding between a traditional Medicare plan and a Medicare Advantage plan, consider two things: your income and your freedom to choose your provider. As you add supplemental plans to traditional Medicare, it can cost more than Medicare Advantage plans. However, with traditional plans, you have the freedom to choose any Medicare-approved, certified provider anywhere. Most Medicare Advantage plans require you to see a provider within their network and may require prior approval or a referral for certain procedures or healthcare services

If you’re still searching for answers on what the best plan is for you, Medicare offers these seven things to consider when selecting your Medicare coverage.

Medicare considerations chart

How Do You Enroll?

You are automatically signed up for Medicare at age 65. However, if you want to select a Medicare health or drug plan, you have a seven-month period around your 65th birthday to sign up for one. This is called the initial enrollment period, and it:

  • Starts three months before you turn 65; if a plan is selected during this period, it will go into effect the first day of the month you turn 65.
  • Includes the month you turn 65; if a plan is selected during this period, it will go into effect the first day of the month following your 65th birthday.
  • Ends three months after you turn 65; if a plan is selected during this period, it will go into effect the first day of the month after you enroll.

If you later decide to change your plan or join a plan after that seven-month period has closed, enrollment is open each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Changes or enrollment during this time period will go into effect the following January.

What are the Different Plans?

In general, there are two types of Medicare plans: traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

  • Traditional Medicare includes Parts A and B. Part A is automatic and includes hospital insurance, which covers hospital stays, as well as skilled nursing facilities and hospice. Part B is optional and is deducted from your Social Security should you enroll. It includes medical insurance, which covers outpatient services, as well as some physician visits and preventative care. Other supplemental plans can be added through private insurance companies; these are paid for out-of-pocket.
  • Also referred to as Medicare Part C or MA plans, Medicare Advantage is an all-inclusive plan that includes both parts A and B, as well other coverage such as prescription drugs, dental and more, depending on the plan. These plans are offered through private Medicare-approved companies. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you will likely be required to choose healthcare providers that participate in your plan’s network.

There are a variety of Medicare plans out there today, so as you near the Medicare age of 65, start researching your options to find the one that best meets your needs.

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You Have a Choice in Your Care—Know Your Options

During a medical emergency, there might not be time to determine your options for care, but once that emergency is stabilized, your physician or case manager could recommend you transition to another care setting as part of your recovery. These settings—known as post-acute care—include home health, inpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing homes and long-term acute care hospitals.

Your care team could refer you to one of these settings based on your abilities and goals, but as a patient, you have a choice in selecting which facility you go to. In fact, it is your right as a patient. The Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services refers to this as patient choice.

What is Patient Choice

In 2019, the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services updated its discharge planning rules to require providers to inform you of your choices when it comes to your post-acute care options. Compare providers near you with this tool from Medicare.gov.

Your referring clinicians—typically a physician and/or a case manager—are required to inform you of the different care settings available in your area that are appropriate for the level of care you require. They also have to tell you if they or their organization have any financial ties to those listed and to share information from those providers, so you can make an educated choice.

The information they share should be related to your recovery goals. Depending on the setting of care, some of that information could include data surrounding rehospitalization (the need to transfer back to the acute care hospital) and patient satisfaction scores, as well as return to community rates.

While all this information can be empowering, it can also be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with the different settings of post-acute care.

What are the Different Settings of Care and Which is Best for You

Encompass Health Hospital Gym
An Encompass Health inpatient rehabilitation gym

As defined by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, post-acute care is rehabilitation or palliative care that a patient receives after a stay in an acute care hospital, or in some instances, in lieu of a hospital stay. That care can take place in the home or in a facility, depending on the patient’s needs. Medicare recognizes four primary types of post-acute care:

  • Home health is care that is provided in the home to help you recover after an illness or injury. Your doctor or other provider can refer you to home health and work with you and the agency to determine how many visits you are eligible to receive each week. Home health is designed to meet you where you are. If you’re recovering from a surgery or a recent hospital stay or managing a disease or injury, home health provides care in the comfort of home. Home health services include nursing, therapy, nursing aides and social workers.
  • Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals provide a hospital level of care with intensive therapy to help you regain your independence and ultimately return to your community after an illness or injury. While at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, you will receive three hours of therapy a day, five days week. You will also have frequent visits from a rehabilitation physician and other physicians, depending on your needs. Nursing careis provided around the clock, and a multi-disciplinary team that includes rehabilitation physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians, pharmacists and case managers will design a unique care plan to fit your goals. Conditions commonly treated at rehabilitation hospitals include stroke, head or spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, amputation and hip fractures.
  • At a skilled nursing facility, you will receive therapy and nursing care. However, unlike inpatient rehabilitation facilities, there are no legal requirements mandating the number of hours of care per day that must be provided. Physician visits are not as frequent, either.
  • If you or your loved one has had a particularly extended and medically complex hospital stay, a long-term care hospital may be recommended. At a long-term care hospital, you will receive nursing and rehabilitation care for an extended period of time. Many patients referred for this level of care are not yet able to participate actively in rehabilitation and may require assistance breathing.

Will Insurance Cover My Care?

That depends on your insurance and your coverage. You do have to meet certain medical requirements for the different settings of care to receive Medicare coverage. Also, some Medicare plans, such as Medicare Advantage ones, limit you to providers within their network. Work with your care team or primary care physician to determine if you meet the requirements of a particular setting. Make sure to discuss your goals, so they can fully understand your long-term needs and the setting that will best help you meet them. In some circumstances, you can consult with your preferred provider to see if they can work with your insurance to help you receive coverage.

Do Your Research

Your care team is required to provide you and your loved one with data regarding the quality of care of providers in your area, but take time to do a little research yourself. Look at patient reviews on websites. Ask family and friends with similar conditions who have had good outcomes and experiences. Where and who you receive care from matters, so take time to look around and find the best provider to help you reach your recovery goals. Perhaps a family member can tour a facility you are considering or take a virtual tour online. By understanding the different settings of care now, you are already taking a step in the right direction.

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2024 Wellness Calendar: Your Healthy Aging Checklist

New Years resolutions are hard to keep without a plan. If one of your goals is healthy aging, ArchWell Health is here to help. Take these monthly steps to a healthier, happier you in 2024.JanuaryStart the year right with your first regular wellness visit of 2024 at ArchWell Health. Your ArchWell Health doctor will review your medical history and prescriptions and help you make a wellness plan for the year. At ArchWell Health you can see your primary care provider as often as you need to! Our care team will make sure to get follow-up appointments on your calendar, too.What to do:Schedule your regular wellness visits.FebruaryThis month we mark American Heart Month (and Valentines Day, of course). A great way to protect your heart is to control your blood pressure. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and many are unaware that they do.What to do:Get your blood pressure checked.MarchMarch is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the U.S., but its largely preventable. Medicare covers screening colonoscopies at no cost to you. You can also talk with your doctor about alternative screenings, including stool-based tests that look at your DNA and blood to determine if you may have irregular colon or rectal growth.What to do:Schedule a colorectal cancer screening.AprilApril is National Minority Health Month. Members of racial and ethnic minorities face bigger disease burdens for a variety of reasons, including access to care. If you're a member of one of these groups, have conversations this month about your unique health challenges due to family history or other risk factors. If not, learn about the unique health challenges your neighbors may face at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Healths website.What to do:Talk with your doctor about challenges that may affect your health.MayMay is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and a good time to think about how important hearing is. Hearing loss contributes to depression, isolation, falls and even car wrecks. And it affects 1 in 3 older adults.What to do:Schedule a hearing test.JuneJune is Mens Health Month, so listen up, men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (after skin cancer). The good news: it grows slowly, so treatment may not be needed. But early detection is key.What to do:Ask your doctor if you should have a prostate cancer screening.Women, youre not off the hook. Schedule your mammogram now, as calendar openings for this preventive screening fill up quickly. (See October for more information.)JulyJust in time for outdoor fun, its UV Safety Month. More people get skin cancer than any other form of cancer. You can lower your risk by practicing sun safety.What to do:Stop by ArchWell Health to see your doctor for a skin check.AugustAugust is National Immunization Awareness Month, a great time to ensure youre up to date on your shots. That includes newer vaccines that protect against COVID-19, shingles and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). RSV alone is responsible for the death of nearly 10,000 older adults each year.What to do:Review your list of vaccinations and talk with your doctor about those youve missed.SeptemberSchool is back, and so is the flu. The flu can make anybody sick but can be deadly for older adults. Up to 85% of flu-related deaths occur among people 65 and older. The best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated.What to do:Schedule a flu shot before the end of next month.OctoberOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Nows the time for a mammogram. This simple test can spot breast cancer up to three years before you feel a lump. Since breast cancer affects more women than any non-skin-related cancer, regular screenings are critical.What to do:Get a mammogram.NovemberNovember is National Diabetes Month, a reminder to control your blood sugar. Diabetes affects 38 million American adults, but many of them dont realize they have it. Its the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of kidney failure.What to do:Get your blood sugar tested.DecemberThe holiday season can be a time of joy, but it can also be a time of sadness, especially if youre socially isolated. Find ways this month to stay active and engaged with other people. Your ArchWell Health center even has weekly activities for older adults in the community.What to do:Ask your ArchWell Health doctor about mental health resources that could help you.

Making and Maintaining Friendships Later in Life

A healthy life is an active one, and activities for older adults are best shared with friends.Were all made for social connection. But as we get older, it gets harder to keep friendships going. And this often leads to loneliness and isolation.Sadness and depression are typical side effects of being lonely. But did you know being lonely may also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke? According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), theres a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke for those who are lonely or isolated.Staying busy is one way to keep these risks down. But getting out of the house to do physical activities isnt always possible or even enjoyable. Especially if youre doing them alone!What if you could stay engaged, active and live your best healthy life through strong relationships? Good news: You can! Stay connected to these 8 kinds of people to boost your mental, physical and emotional health.1. Healthcare ProvidersStaying up to date on regular wellness visits, bi-annual dental cleanings and specialty-care checkups is a big part of healthy aging. And having a healthcare provider who you trust like a friend makes those visits more enjoyable (and less like a chore!).ArchWell Health primary care providers spend more time with you to, a. learn about your lifestyle, b. listen to your health concerns and c. answer any questions you have. Plus, ArchWell Health offices have full care teams of nurses, social workers, medical assistants and other people to support you as you age. It takes a village, and ArchWell Health is here for it. Learn more about ArchWell Health today: Get Started!2. Family That Brings You JoyWhether by blood or by choice, family is forever. But let's face it: older adults need stress-free interactions. Spend time with the family members and friends you genuinely like. These people make you laugh, remember the good times and fill you with joy.Communicate regularly by phone, email or snail mail if you can't meet face-to-face. And cut down on contact with any family who add extra emotional, physical or financial worries to your plate.3. Active AgematesWe all have those friends with a "forever young" spirit. They're the first to know about activities for older adults and theyre always up for a new adventure, near or far. Keep these people on speed dial.Whether it's a book club or a Beyonc concert, chances are they know how to get in and have a great time! If you don't have one of these friends, stop by ArchWell Health to participate in their weekly classes. These events are open to the public and include arts and crafts, chair yoga and educational seminars.4. Big ThinkersAging is no reason to leave decades of experience and expertise on a shelf. Older adults need intellectually stimulating friends and activities to thrive. Connect with big thinkers by attending book clubs at your local library or competing in chess matches in the park.Some people take up new skills or join online courses. Check out ArchWell Healths educational seminar offerings. Whatever you choose, keep your brain fresh by being a lifelong student.5. Movers and ShakersStaying physically active is one of the best ways to stay healthy as you age. Easier said than done when youre housebound or have chronic pain! To stay motivated to exercise, take nature walks and do other activities that get the blood pumping. Grab a friend to go alone as a fitness buddy or accountability partner.The movers and shakers in your life might be the same age or younger than you. Age doesnt matter, as long as they're committed to good nutrition and healthy habits. You might even learn some new health hacks to add to your daily routine.6. KidsOne of the hardest things about aging is feeling like the world is changing too fast. Spending time with the kids in your life brings things into focus. Whether they're tiny babies, teeny tots or even testy teens, kids keep you young.An added bonus: they benefit from your wisdom, and you can learn from their perspectives and lean on their skills, especially when it comes to using FaceTime or figuring out TikTok.7. People Who Speak Your LanguageWhether you moved to the US as a young adult or came here more recently, the CDC noted that among other vulnerable groups theres a higher risk for social isolation among immigrants. Theres a few different reasons for this. For one thing, older adults may find it harder to travel to their birth country to visit family who may still live there, or to be surrounded by their culture of origin.If youre looking for that extra sense of belonging, check out nearby community, cultural and senior care centers that focus on people who share your ethnic or linguistic background. If you dont get to hear your first language much where you live, try listening to in-language audiobooks and podcasts.8. Fellow EnthusiastsWhether its knitting, listening to jazz or playing mahjong, make it a point to hang out with people who share your passions. They wont get annoyed when you call to pick their brain, and their joy for your shared hobby will keep you connected to a vibrant community.Remember, the things you enjoy dont have to be things youre good at. So, dont hide your love for karaoke, painting or baking just because you could use a bit more practice. In fact, that just means you should hang out more often with these fantastic friends.It's never too late...If you think getting out of the house is a young persons game, think again. From bowling alleys to movie theaters, senior discounts and 55+ designated days abound. Take advantage of these specials as opportunities to make new friendships or rekindle old ones with people who share your hobbies.Want to stay close to home? Invite relatives for a walk around the block, or have your neighbors come over for coffee on your porch. Just enjoying a bit of sunlight and stimulating conversation is good for the soul.And it never hurts to laugh at yourself every once in a while. Try new thingseven if its just to say you tried it. Be open to discover hidden talents and interests.Don't know where to start? Reach out to ArchWell Health today to learn more about all the resources waiting for you there.

How to Find the Right Doctor for Your Senior Parent or Loved One

If you're a caregiver for your parents or other aging loved one, at some point you may need to find the right doctor for their current health needs.Maybe mom's doctor retired, or dad moved from another city to live with you. If your parent's condition changes or they receive a new diagnosis, they might need specialized care. In the case of dementia or Alzheimer's, you may need to look for a doctor who can offer advice on care, treatment and quality of life.Finding the right doctor may seem overwhelming with so many physicians and specialists available. ArchWell Health has your back! Here, well offer 7 steps to guide this important search.1. Review your parents' insurance planTo get started, check your parent's insurance plan to understand their coverage, deductibles and co-pays.Medicare can seem complex. But there are many resources to help you and your loved one understand how to pay for their healthcare needs. Many adults over 65 enroll in traditional Medicare plans that include Medicare Part A coverage for hospital stays and Medicare Part coverage for doctors visits and other services.Other older adults choose a Medicare Advantage plan instead, known as Medicare Part C or an "MA" plan. ArchWell Health partners with several Medicare Advantage plans to provide healthcare services.Medicare Advantage plans include Medicare Part A, Part B and usually a prescription drug plan, Part D. Medicare advantage plans are offered by Medicare-approved private insurance companies who partner with Medicare to offer affordable health plans. You may even be able to select a plan with no premiums.You can learn more about Medicare Advantage here: Medicare Advantage 101You should also find out if your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, which can work with their Medicare Advantage plan to help cover healthcare expenses and provide additional benefits like lower prescription drug costs and transportation assistance.Finally, if your parent has an employer health plan as part of their retirement package, you'll need to review it and see what's covered.Closely review your parent's health plan(s) for rules on using in-network providers. That way, you can search for a doctor that's in-network so your parent can save money on healthcareKnowing your parents' health plan coverage will help you find the right doctor for your parents at the most affordable cost.2. Consider how value-based care can help your loved oneArchWell Health members aged 60 and over receive ValYou CareTM, a unique approach to value-based care and wellness programs. Value-based care is a model where a team of doctors and other healthcare providers work together to prevent illness and provide personalized care.ValYou Care services include:Longer appointments to discuss health concerns with the doctorPrimary care visits whenever your parent needs themOn-site testing and health screenings24-hour phone supportSame-day sick appointmentsTelehealth appointmentsReferrals to specialistsCall ArchWell Health to see how ValYou CareTM can help your parent live a healthy, independent life.3. Talk with your parents about their health and wellness goalsOnce you and your loved one understand their health plan coverage, it's time to discuss their health and wellness goals. For example, your parents may have concerns about cancer, heart disease or dementia. They may need help managing diabetes, depression or other health conditions.If left undetected or untreated, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions can worsen and become more serious.ArchWell Health offers cancer screenings and a long list of important preventive screenings to detect early heart disease, depression, diabetes and more. The sooner these conditions are detected, the better the treatment options.A healthy lifestyle and diet is a huge part of aging well. Thats why as ArchWell Health members, your parents can also receive a customized nutrition education plan.Staying socially engaged is important for wellness too. Loneliness and isolation can raise the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Council on Aging.Reduce these risks by staying connected to a community and social network. If your parent wants to meet new friends, ArchWell Health offers many events and classes for members to stay active and socialize, including:Exercise, strength training, Zumba, Tai Chi, Pilates and chair yoga classesCanvas paintingBoard gamesLunch and learn eventsSocial events4. Check into transportation assistanceAs a caregiver for an aging parent, you may be driving them back and forth to doctor's appointments and errands. However, caregivers can often use an extra hand with this task, especially if they're working. Let us help! We can arrange transportation if needed so your parent always has a ride to their ArchWell Health medical appointments and community activities.5. Find healthcare provider locationsWith locations and healthcare providers in multiple U.S. cities, ArchWell Health's Find a Provider Near You search tool can help you find the right doctor for your parents. You can search by:Provider nameCare focusZip codeDistance up to 75 milesPreferred genderPreferred languageDiscuss the search terms and results with your parents, asking their preferences to make the best choices together.6. Consider a doctor who specializes in elder care.When choosing the right doctor for your aging parents, consider a primary care provider that specializes in senior primary care, such as a geriatrician. Doctors and nurse practitioners can both specialize in geriatrics. Geriatricians have an in-depth knowledge of all things elder care.A geriatrician also specializes in treating people with multiple chronic conditions. They can help your parent know what to expect as they age, recommend accommodations, or prepare for changes that affect their body and cognitive abilities. A geriatrician can:Diagnose and treat medical conditionsPrescribe medicationsWatch for medication side effects and adjust prescriptions when necessaryRefer your parents to specialistsDiscuss your parents' daily functioning and guide tough decisions, such as when its time to stop driving or living aloneHelp with end of life planning and advance directives7. Meet with a social worker at the new primary care centerOnce you find the right doctor for your parents, meet with a social worker at the new practice to discuss your parents' social and behavioral needs. A social worker can help you and your parents locate safe housing, food and nutrition assistance, mental health counseling and more. They can also point you to classes, educational offerings and social activities offered by ArchWell Health.The social worker can provide a list of community resources for caregivers too, such as local or virtual support groups. A social worker may also be able to discuss long-term planning for your parents changing needs, including long-term care costs and options.ArchWell Health is here to helpNavigating the aging process can be challenging for you and your parent. Fortunately, ArchWell Health is here to help your parent with their medical needs and wellness goals through our ValYou CareTM program.Call ArchWell Health today to find out more about the many advantages and health benefits of ValYou CareTM.Find your local ArchWell Health phone number here: Call Now

Local Services By This Author

Encompass Health

Rehabilitation Services 6400 Edgelake Dr., Sarasota, Florida, 34240

We are focused on two things: the progress our patients make and the outcomes they achieve. This is evident by our industry-leading performance scores. We want you to get better; and to make that happen, we need to know where you began. Upon arrival at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Sarasota, we will measure how much help you need to perform basic skills - this is called your Functional Outcome Measures. Your rehabilitation team will review this assessment with you, set challenging but attainable goals and design a treatment plan to help you meet your specific goals. Before you leave the hospital, we will rescore your Functional Outcome Measures assessment to see how much you've improved, determine how well you have met your goals and provide you the materials and training you need to continue your progress after you leave the hospital. We proudly display our Gold Seal of Approval as we have earned the JOINT COMMISSION ACCREDITATION.