Rehabilitation in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Posted on

Sep 23, 2009


New Jersey - Bergen and Passaic Counties

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Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) vary greatly in their ability to provide high quality individualized Rehabilitation services to patients. Patients, families, & healthcare professionals often choose a SNF based on geographical factors, physical plant (e.g. interior/exterior design, meals, availability of private rooms); also, often used in the selection process is an environment that is clean and odor-free, as well as positive regulatory agency reports. Although these factors can play a role in the decision making process, other very important factors that should be considered are often overlooked.

Successful Rehabilitation, measured by positive functional outcomes, can best be achieved in facilities that provide highly individualized Rehabilitation services -- where there is a close working alliance between patients/families/caregivers & a highly skilled team of healthcare professionals. The goal of this team is to maximize a given patients physical, functional, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, & leisure potential --often after life changing/catastrophic illness.

Healthcare professionals that should be part of this team include primary care physicians (PCP), and physiatrists, who should work closely side by side. While the PCP attends to the general medical needs of the patient, the physiatrist --a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation -- attends to the patients individualized Rehabilitation program. The physiatrist serves as the team leader of a group of individuals, which include, but is not limited to: occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, social workers, recreational therapists, patients and their families/caregivers. Also important to the Rehabilitation process is around the clock availability of highly qualified nursing staff, as well as the easy availability of other healthcare consultants as needed. There should be close attention to the proper equipment needed for rehabilitation and the actual amount of time that a patient actively participates in the rehabilitation program, and this should reflect the actual needs of the patient.

The proper matching of a specific patients need for rehabilitation services and the services that a specific SNF can actually provide, will help to maximize a successful rehabilitation outcome; this is turn, will help to minimize psychological & financial difficulties for the patient and their family -- during a usually very stressful period in their lives.

Editors Note: This article was provided by Jose A. Alonso, M.D., full time physiatrist on staff at Prospect Heights Care Center. Dr. Alonso is the Medical Director of Rehabilitation Medicine Services, Prospect Heights Care Center located at 336 Prospect Avenue, Hackensack, NJ, The PM&R Center, P.A., Englewood, NJ and Assistant Clinical Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. He can be reached at 201-678-1800.

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