When an older adult is hospitalized following a surgery, an injury or an illness, they may require a stay in a short-term rehabilitation center before they are able to safely return home. Skilled nursing and rehab centers allow patients to continue their recovery and transition toward independence with the assistance of a nursing and therapy staff. These rehab centers often offer a more comfortable, relaxed environment.
If your loved one needs to be transferred to a short-term rehab center, you will likely need to help them decide which one best meets their needs. Doing your homework and making a smart decision is crucial. Care that doesn’t meet your senior’s needs could delay their recovery. Quality, patient-centered care can promote faster healing, while giving families peace of mind that they are in safe hands.
Beginning the Search for a Short-term Rehab Partner
Start your search by consulting with the social worker or discharge planner from the hospital where your loved one is a patient. He or she can provide you with a Medicare-approved list of skilled nursing and rehab centers in your area. You can also do a web-search and ask friends for referrals. Once you have a list of possibilities, narrow down your choices based on the following criteria:
Ratings and certifications: The federal government’s Medicare Nursing Home Compare rates nursing homes and rehab centers based on health inspections, staffing, amenities, and quality measures. Search by zip code and use their online database to track rehab centers to consider based on quality scores and the distance from your home. You can even create your own comparison chart.
Your Senior’s Needs: Consult your loved one’s physician and hospital social worker to determine the type of care your senior requires. All short-term rehab centers offer help with day-to-day activities like bathing, dressing, and medications. But some are not equipped for patients in need of speech therapy or for patients who need more intensive physical rehabilitation.
Therapy Methods: Call or visit short-term rehab centers to learn more about their approach to transitional care. How much and what type of therapies are offered? How many times a day will your loved one see a physical therapist? How long are the sessions? Look for a center that provides 1-3 hours of therapy each day in one or two sessions, including weekends. Rehab centers that progressively extend the frequency and length of therapy are more likely to aid your loved one’s full recovery.
Price and Insurance: Make sure the rehab centers on your list are Medicare and/or Medicaid-approved for payment. If your senior has private insurance, confirm that the center accepts it. You may also want to inquire about private pay rates. If Medicare coverage ends before you are ready to take your senior home, you may be forced to pay if you want to extend their stay.
Location: A rehab center that is located close to friends and family may increase the likelihood of visitors, which might help keep your loved one’s spirits up and hasten their recovery.
Services: Does the rehab center have a social worker on staff? Is laundry service included? Are there enriching activities for your senior, such as crafts projects and religious services? Is there a hair salon on site? Is there a garden or outdoor area where your loved one can enjoy fresh air?
Transitioning Home After a Rehab Stay
Once your loved one is admitted to a short-term rehab, it is time to start planning for the next step—their arrival home. It might also be a good time to start a conversation with your loved one about the future. Heritage Senior Communities offers many care options tailored to the needs of older adults across Michigan, including independent living, assisted living and specialized dementia care.
Summertime is vacation time in Michigan. If you are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, however, you may think a trip that includes your loved one is impossible. While Alzheimer’s patients often become agitated by changes in their daily routine, many can successfully travel if their caregivers plan ahead and take precautions.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that you evaluate your loved one’s ability to travel based on their needs and the progression of the disease. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s will be less likely to become distressed than those in the later stages of the disease.
Tips for Traveling with a Senior Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease
If you decide that your senior can safely accompany you on a trip, these tips can help make the excursion enjoyable for all:
Put Your Loved One First: Choose the method of transportation, route and accommodations that will cause your loved one the least amount of stress and anxiety, even if it means more inconvenience and cost to you. Avoid peak travel times and holidays. When flying, choose a direct flight whenever possible. When you must change planes, try to purchase tickets with at least an hour between flights. This will prevent a frenzied rush to board the next plane.
Be Prepared: Medications, snacks and drinks, and a change of clothing should be accessible at all times. A list of prescription information, doctor phone numbers and emergency contacts should be handy, as well. Carry your senior loved one’s insurance card, identification and copies of legal documents. A recent photo can help locate them if they should wander off. There are several cell phone apps that make this easier including CareZone and Unfrazzle.
Plan a Reasonable Itinerary: You might be able to hop from museum to museum or spend the day at an amusement park, but people with dementia can be easily overwhelmed and distressed by days packed with fast-paced activities. Limit the number of activities you do each day. Slowing down and relaxing more can be good for everyone!
Use the Buddy System: Always keep your loved one under direct supervision. Unfamiliar environments increase the likelihood that someone with dementia will wander. If you stay in a hotel, use all the interior door locks to make it more difficult for your loved one to open the door when you are sleeping or showering. You may want to invest in a door alarm or a Medic-Alert necklace or bracelet that would help reunite you in the event they slip out of your sight.
Do Your Research: Before you leave, locate the hospital and urgent care centers nearest your destination. Investigate road construction and detours that might cause stressful delays. You might also contact the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to identify any resources you might need to utilize when you arrive.
Have a Plan B: Have an alternative plan or two in place, just in case your loved one doesn’t respond well to being away from home. This might mean making more frequent rest-stops or checking into a hotel sooner.
Consider Respite Care Services
If your senior with Alzheimer’s cannot travel along with you, consider respite care . Call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you to learn more about a short term stay at one of our Michigan communities. While there really is no vacation from caregiving, thoughtful planning can make a summer trip pleasant for all.
Summer provides seniors in Michigan more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities. But it also increases their risk of life-threatening dehydration. Older adults are already prone to dehydration in large part because age-related changes weaken their ability to sense when they are thirsty and to easily adjust to changes in temperature. Summer’s heat and humidity add to that threat. Both can lead to serious complications and even death. When a senior loved one is too hot, they lose fluid through perspiration. Added humidity prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling the body, further increasing the need for fluids.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults of all ages consume 48-64 ounces of liquid each day. This includes fruit and vegetable juices, soups, and milk. Sodas, coffee and tea do count toward that total, however, medical professionals usually don’t recommend them because of the added sugar, calories and caffeine.
Here are some ideas for making sure your senior loved one gets adequate fluids year-round:
- Always provide a beverage with meals. If the person in your care chooses caffeinated coffee or tea, insist they include a small glass of water or juice to counteract the diuretic affects.
- Urge them to drink a full glass of water when taking daily medications. A phone call reminder at medication times might be necessary.
- Schedule hydration into their daily routine. For instance, if they watch a particular television program each day, prompt them to get a glass of water or juice before it begins. If they exercise, ask them to drink an 8-ounce glass of water before and after.
- Encourage your senior to drink throughout the day rather than waiting until they are thirsty. Remember, if an older adult is thirsty, they are likely already dehydrated. You might try designating a specific cup, glass or water bottle for drinking water and challenging them to finish it and refill it two-to-three times throughout the day.
- Dress up their drinks. Add fresh lemon slices, other fruits or even mint sprigs to water for a refreshing change. You can also use a water infuser to create a homemade fruity water beverage. Offer sparkling seltzers and flavored waters, which are available in the water aisle of the grocery store. A colorful straw can ensure your senior drinks more quickly.
- Provide access to plenty of water-rich fruits and veggies. Drinking isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. Melon, grapefruit, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, spinach, squash and broccoli are all high in water content. Offer them with meals and as snacks. Raw is best, as cooking removes water.
You can also reduce fluid loss through perspiration by helping your senior loved one stay cool.
- Make sure they dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Cotton is ideal.
- Encourage them to stay in an air-conditioned building on hot days.
- Older adults should avoid direct sunlight. Staying indoors or in the shade between 11am and 4pm is best.
We hope these tips will help you keep your senior hydrated and safe this summer and throughout the year.
My 82-year old father has arthritis. He’s lived with it for many years. I know he is really suffering from it but I can’t convince him to see the doctor. He says there is no cure for it so it is a waste of time and money. In all honesty, I’m not sure how many years it has been since my dad has even been to the doctor. He is very stubborn!
I saw a commercial on television about arthritis medication so I think there might be options for him. Any suggestions to offer?
Tami in Hudsonville, Michigan
It isn’t uncommon for older adults to be resistant to seeing a physician for a variety of reasons. But in this case, seeing a physician experienced at working with older adults who live with arthritis is the best way to relieve the pain it sounds like your father is feeling. While your dad is correct in saying there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways to manage it.
A physician can recommend treatment options ranging from pain relievers and steroids to physical therapy or aquatic therapy. Both of these therapies help strengthen and support the muscles around the damaged joint while improving range of motion. His doctor can also share information on the surprising role diet plays in preventing –or creating—the inflammation that makes the pain of arthritis worse.
The experts from the Arthritis Foundation offer the following advice on when someone with the disease should consult with a physician:
- When pain, swelling, or stiffness is present in one or more joints
- If joints appear reddened or warm to the touch
- When moving a joint is difficult or when symptoms inhibit everyday activities
In addition, the experts recommend making an appointment with a doctor if symptoms persist for more than three days or if your father has more than one battle with his arthritis in a month. A gerontologist or a rheumatologist might be the best choice.
We hope sharing this information with your father may help change his mind and convince him to seek medical attention!
Heritage Senior Communities newest community assisted living community in Holland, Michigan will open its doors to new residents in June.