Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehabilitation for Seniors – How to Choose

family decides between inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for seniorsHave you ever had an older loved one who was hospitalized for surgery, illness or an injury? If the answer is yes, then you’ve probably heard doctors talk about inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for seniors. But what’s the difference, and which one should you choose?

Why rehab?

Before we get to the different options for rehab, let’s ask a question: Why does your loved one need rehab in the first place?

The goal of rehab is exactly that: to rehabilitate. Over a period of time – could be a week, two weeks a month or even longer – the patient receives high quality therapies that will help him or her regain as much independence as possible. Many hospitals offer a bit of rehab during hospitalization. But most of it occurs after the patient is discharged. And that’s where inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for seniors comes in.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for Seniors

Inpatient rehabilitation takes place at a special rehab center for seniors, or in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility that provides rehab services.

There are a lot of advantages to taking the inpatient route. One of the biggest is that the burden of the work isn’t on the patient. There are no exercises or practice routines to do at home. Therapy sessions take place as often as the patient needs them – even daily. Because the patient is living at the therapy location, the entire experience is both more integrated and more intense. This often leads to more concrete results in a shorter amount of time.

Another advantage to inpatient rehabilitation is that there’s no transportation to worry about. Caregivers don’t have to coordinate schedules and figure out who’s going to take Mom or Dad to which therapy session. Family members have the mental space to concentrate on encouraging their loved ones and making them more comfortable, rather than be preoccupied with logistics.

A third reason families opt for inpatient rehab is the amenities it offers. Besides daily therapy sessions and medical follow-up, their loved one has access to nutritious, well-prepared meals and snacks. They can participate in any activities and outings the residential facility provides. Household chores like cleanup and laundry are taken off the patient’s shoulders. Round-the-clock security and medical staff mean that caregivers can sleep at night, knowing their loved one is safe and secure.

So if inpatient rehabilitation is so great, why doesn’t everyone choose it?

Good question. One major reason is the greatest drawback of inpatient rehab: The patient has to leave the comfort and familiarity of their own home. For many older adults, this is not an easy experience.

A second reason is financial. Not all insurance plans cover inpatient rehab, and while Medicare does provide coverage in certain cases, you need to check if your loved one’s situation meets their requirements.

Outpatient Rehabilitation for Seniors

Now that we’ve discussed how great inpatient rehabilitation for seniors is, we’re going to talk about the advantages of outpatient rehab.

Again, one of the biggest advantages of outpatient rehabilitation for seniors is that the patient gets to go home. For many seniors, just being in their own place gives them a boost and a feeling of independence. That alone helps them feel better. They don’t want to be surrounded by staff or eat their meals in a dining room, no matter how caring the staff is or how delicious the meals are. They want to go home where they can begin the process of taking care of themselves once more. For these older adults, outpatient rehabilitation can be the best option, maybe with the addition of at-home care.

Another is price. There is no evidence showing that the professionals in outpatient rehab clinics are any less qualified or less dedicated than those who work at inpatient facilities. Many families conclude that since there’s no difference in the level of care, the money could be put to better use elsewhere. That’s a decision each family needs to make on its own.

But whether you decide on inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation for seniors, remember: Your decision isn’t etched in granite. If you register your loved one for inpatient rehab and you see they really need to go home, don’t hesitate to talk to the staff and make the necessary arrangements. And if you decide on outpatient rehab but then realize it’s too much to handle, call a qualified senior residence with rehab services. What’s important is helping your loved one get back on their feet – no matter where.