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Senior Citizen's Guide to Philadelphia

Helping Seniors Get Through the Health Care Buzz Word Maze

The scenario isn't a good one: you or a loved one has had an accident; perhaps they have fallen and fractured their hip. After just a four day hospital stay, you have been told that they are going to be discharged! You are naturally upset and you are not sure where to go or what to do next. This has never happened before! The doctor or social worker starts telling you that they need rehabilitation and for you to look at a Sub-Acute facility! You hand through the "process" are long gone, and you have no idea what Sub-Acute means or where to look. Unfortunately, that is not the only term out in the medical community which a "Lay" person hasn't a clue as to what it means, not to mention the stress you are under to try and do the right thing for your loved one. Today, seniors are confronted with many "choices" and "options", whether they are in a crisis situation or in need of a life change due to needing more help than a family member can provide. Health care "buzz" words can be foreign and confusing. This article is to help you get through the maze so you can make an educated and solid decision, so consider it a source to refer back to; chances are, in this day and age, numerous scenarios will occur where it will become a handy guide and reference.


A person stays at a hospital for a period of time to receive intense care, and they never stay there for long term.

Acute Care Rehabilitation

Today, hospitals are mandated to discharge patients sooner than ever before. The patient is classified as stable but still needs to progress in order to become independent again. The patient has been evaluated and has been accepted by an Acute Care Rehabilitation Center. What that means is that the individual has the stamina and strength to allow him or her to perform four or more hours of Acute Rehabilitation per day. The rehab can consist of Physical, Occupational, Speech or Aquatic Therapies. Facilities that offer this type of care are geared for short term stay to get the patient functioning independently and then discharge them to home. This is a great facility for an individual who was totally self-sufficient but experienced a catastrophic event such as a fractured hip or a moderate stroke but had been very independent prior to the event.

Sub-Acute Rehabilitation

After evaluation in the hospital, it has been determined that this patient cannot physically tolerate four hours of therapies per day; however, the patient would be able to physically tolerate three hours or less per day in order to return to independent status. The same type of event could have occurred as mentioned before however there may be other underlying medical reasons why Sub-Acute would be better tolerated by the patient.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

This is a nursing home that has "Medicare certified" beds in order for the patient to receive therapies and medical attention. All of the staff is licensed and these facilities also provide Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapies based on the patient's physical tolerance. As the patient improves, the length of therapy time may increase in order for them to reach an independent level if possible. Now let's consider that a catastrophic event has not occurred but you are noticing some changes in your older adult. Perhaps forgetfulness, becoming untidy where before they were very well kempt with their person and home, or perhaps they are just plain lonely and in need of company with persons of their own age, and where they can have added services such as meals to unload the burden of doing it themselves.

Assisted Living Facilities

Typically, Assisted Living will offer three meals, help with dressing and bathing, and activities. They may also offer transportation to events and doctors appointments. Many Assisted Living Facilities are stand alone, which means that if a resident progresses far enough, they may need to find another community to meet their needs.

Personal Care

Similar to Assisted Living, these communities offer assistance with daily living skills, which may include, dressing and bathing, all meals, and medication monitoring and distribution. The State surveys these communities annually to make sure that all functional criteria are being followed by the staff and that the residents have as high a quality of life as possible.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

These communities typically offer 2 or 3 levels of living arrangements with residential apartments, as well as assisted living and ideally a nursing home with rehabilitation. If an individual moves to one of these communities independently, they usually will enjoy and active social life-services such as meals and entertainment and possibly the added extra health care if it should be needed.

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