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NOCSC Meeting Tomorrow

 

Good Morning Friends and Members of NOCSC ~ We will be using this last General Meeting of the year to begin looking at themes and projects for next year.  In addition to our current ‘Reducing Loneliness’ theme, we are also considering looking at themes and ideas around resources and financial costs of the aging process.  The NOCSC Board has been discussing ideas that include finding ways to educate families and caregivers about what to expect financially and various ways to consider managing the financial changes that people are likely to encounter as they age.  As a part of the North Orange County Senior Collaborative, your input and suggestions are extremely valuable to us.  We look forward to a robust discussion about 2019 directions and themes.
Our  next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow
Tuesday, 20 November 2018 from 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. here at St. Jude Community Services, 130 W. Bastanchury Road, Fullerton.  Bring your ideas and thoughts ~ see you soon!

 

A Look Into Older Adults’ State of Mind

The oldest age group is growing, but its supply of psychological support is dwindling.

A Look Into Older Adults’ State of Mind

By Katelyn Newman , Staff Writer | Oct. 11, 2017, at 12:01 a.m.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, an increase in age can lead to an increase in happiness. In fact, older adults tend to be more satisfied with their lives than their younger peers. But, for those who need it, limited supply of and access to proper geriatric psychiatric treatment leave many older adults’ mental health issues underdiagnosed and thus undertreated.

One in four adults ages 65 and older experiences a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or dementia, according to the American Psychological Association. And people 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any age group, especially among older white males who have a suicide rate almost six times that of the general population, according to the National Council on Aging.


in Portland, OR

More on Aging in America:

The issue of access to mental health care treatment will be further compounded as baby boomers – who carry a higher predisposition to suicide than earlier generations – enter the older adult stage of life. The number of Americans between the ages of 65 and older is projected to double from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060, according to the American Psychological Association.

But there’s a positive side to this ledger.

More health systems across the country are merging mental health care into primary care visits, which older people are more likely to take advantage of, says Dr. Yeates Conwell, director of the geriatric psychiatry program at the University of Rochester.

Yet access to proper mental health care for older adults is hindered by modern culture perpetuating the stigmas and misconceptions of ageism and mental health issues; social isolation; high health care costs; and a dwindling supply of geriatric caregivers for America’s growing older population.

“The way we treat and take care of people, especially older people, with mental health illnesses is certainly an embarrassment and a shame to society,” says Dr. Dilip Jeste, director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at University of California–San Diego School of Medicine. “This is one of the most disenfranchised segments of our society.”

Addressing the Stigmas of Ageism and Mental Health

Modern culture in America values the new and, in the process, pushes the old aside.

“Ours is a culture that values innovation, which is new knowledge, and devalues wisdom, which is old knowledge or eternal knowledge – knowledge that doesn’t change every five years when a new iPhone comes out,” says Dr. Renee Garfinkel, a clinical psychologist, author and radio host.

“But something’s lost and something’s gained in every choice that society makes,” Garfinkel adds. “When you’re in a society where speed is highly valued, then an old person will not be.”

By adapting this mindset, experts say society could be contributing to social isolation and misconceptions surrounding older adults’ mental health.

“When older people incorporate the view that they are ‘over the hill,’ that they are a burden on their families or on their communities, then that’s a very dangerous situation,” Conwell says, as social isolation has been proven to be as bad for one’s health as smoking or lack of exercise.

The stigma of ageism includes negative attitudes, stereotypes and behaviors directed toward older adults based solely on their perceived age. In other words, as people get older, others assume that they have or are increasingly susceptible to mental or physical impairments that make them no longer able to contribute in a way they once were, decreasing their value to the community.

“People with mental illnesses in general get really poor care. There is a considerable amount of stigma against mental illness, and when you talk about aging, there is considerable stigma against aging,” Jeste says. “So older people with mental illness have this double whammy: They are stigmatized because of mental illness and stigmatized because they’re older.”


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(DEIDRE MCPHILLIPS FOR USN&WR)


Further, mental health services may be underutilized by older patients as they may be in denial, may not have adequate insurance coverage, or their other physical chronic conditions may take precedence during a primary care visit, leaving their mental health unchecked.

“I think that time is an issue for practitioners,” says Eric Weakly, chief of state and community programs for the western branch of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“If you’re coming and you only have maybe 15 minutes, and you have a person who has multiple chronic conditions – they may be presented with cardiac conditions or diabetes or other things – of the list of conditions, depression, anxiety or another mental illness may not be first on the list when they’re doing their screens,” Weakly, a social worker, continues.

And, while the number of older adults with mental health disorders is expected to nearly double by 2030, the number of geriatric psychiatrists and psychologists is projected to continue its decline, resulting in less than one geriatric specialist per 6,000 patients with mental health and substance use disorders, according to a 2013 Dartmouth University study.

More than 20 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder, and the most common neuropsychiatric disorders in this age group are dementia and depression, according to the World Health Organization.

Dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease, its most common form – affects about 5 percent of individuals between 71 and 79 and 37 percent of the population above the age of 90, according to the American Psychological Association.

But, as Garfinkel explains, growing older doesn’t mean you will suffer from a mental health issue. Rather, a longer lifespan exposes a person more, both in terms of mental and physical conditions, which may affect a person’s overall psyche.

“The longer you live, the more chance there is for illness to target you, and depression is a risk factor for people who have chronic illness, especially when it’s chronic pain,” Garfinkel says. “Pain and depression are very highly associated, and a lot of the disorders that strike more often in older age – but not exclusively in old age – are painful.”

While depression is not a consequence of getting older, the misconception that it is – either due to bereavement over lost loved ones or the physical pains tied to aging – leads to underdiagnosis and undertreatment by health care professionals and older adults themselves who may not recognize the associated physical symptoms.

A combination of the individual and the people around him or her making incorrect assumptions about depression as a normal part of aging further complicates diagnoses, Conwell says.

“Older people tend in general to be more satisfied with their lives than middle-aged people, and have lower rates of syndromal depression, even though depressive symptoms may be present. But when they are, clinical depression is a syndrome that’s made up of a bunch of different symptoms – sadness is only one of them,” Conwell continues.

Senior patients may not bring up emotional symptoms, though, opting instead to describe physical ones such as loss of energy, poor sleeping habits, loss of appetite and trouble concentrating, Conwell says, all of which are common with other chronic medical conditions in later life.

Yet mental health correlates with physical health, according to the World Health Organization.

“Older adults with physical health conditions such as heart disease have higher rates of depression than those who are medically well,” the organization reported in April 2016. “Conversely, untreated depression in an older person with heart disease can negatively affect the outcome of the physical disease.”

Noticing the Spectrum of Mental Health – and Opportunities – for Older Adults

A 2016 study evaluating successful aging from ages 21 to 100 showed that mental health improved with increased age, contrary to the perceived stigma of ageism.

“What we found was that with age the physical health declined, as expected, the cognitive function declines in later life, but the mental health improved with aging in the sense that people seem to get happier, more satisfied, less depressed, less stressed out, in later life than when they were younger,” Jeste, co-senior author of the study, says.

“Even people with mental illnesses can do better in later life if society helps them,” Jeste says. “The problem is not so much biology; the problem is more what we provide as a society.”

As a whole, the 65 and older age group tends to be happier than their younger peers, with reportedly fewer mental health disorders except for dementia as they age.

Like all generations, older adults experience positive mental health when they perceive that they have social support and that they add value to their communities, says Helen Kivnick, a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota.

Yet, she continues, there are fewer social supports and opportunities available for this older generation than for any other stage of the life cycle.

“We would never think about trying to grow a society of healthy kids without families or schools or playgrounds or friendship groups or things like that,” Kivnick says. “It shouldn’t really surprise us that older people show the ill effects of the absence of these supports, and the supports that we provide we think of as remedial supports rather than ordinary supports for psychosocial health.”

Community and family support decline later in life, and loneliness is one of the biggest concerns for older people.

“People get old, and they get isolated, and depending on their social network or their history going into aging – they may have always been a very solo person to begin with – they may want to have control over who they interact with, who they don’t interact with,” says Dr. Brenda Reiss-Brennan, head of the mental health integration program at Intermountain Healthcare. “So you really have to understand what is their baseline, and where are they now, and what would be acceptable to them to have social contact because social contact is the key to aging well.”


But living alone does not mean that a person of any age is lonely, says Dr. John Cacioppo, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65 years of age or older, Cacioppo says, so it should be no surprise that more are living alone as getting older increases the likelihood that one spouse will pass away before the other. As of 2015, there were nearly 16 million adults ages 60 and above living alone in the U.S., according to the Administration for Community Living’s AGing Integrated Database.

“When it’s perceived isolation instead of objective isolation, that’s called loneliness,” says Cacioppo, who is also the director of the university’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. Perceived isolation accounts for a 26 percent increase in mortality through biological and behavioral processes.

Living alone could lead to autonomy or independence with the right social support system. Maybe you’re ready to form new relationships in new groups apart from the family, neighbors or community you spent years growing up with, or dependency forces you into assisted living as isolation is not going to work, Cacioppo says. On the other hand, it could lead an individual to feel uprooted.

“It isn’t about objective isolation, moving or not, it’s about the psychological impact of that to the individual,” Cacioppo says. “One of the worst things you can do is give up all meaning for an older retired adult.”

Trying to Fix a Broken System

The costs of health care – especially mental health care – prevent people from all age groups from receiving the treatment they need when they need it.

For older adults, though, the uncertainty of finances to cover health care costs is an enormous stressor, Garfinkel says.

“It is for younger people, but the older you get the fewer options for maneuvering and figuring out your way around it that you have,” she says.

In 2016, Congress passed the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act, which included the first major mental health care and substance-abuse legislation to be passed in 20 years. While the mental health portion of the bill did not include much extra funding compared to existing levels, it laid the groundwork to address mental health and requires health insurance companies to cover more mental health treatments.

Still, Jeste says, private insurance companies have found loopholes to avoid covering mental illness, making it less affordable even for patients that have Medicaid or Medicare insurance. Because of this restrictive coverage, physicians may not prescribe a patient the psychotherapy they need because it does not come with the same reimbursement as prescription drugs.

“It becomes a vicious circle,” Jeste says. People who need mental health care don’t receive it, their condition gets worse, and, as they get older, their access to care declines further as there aren’t enough physicians in the geriatric field to provide that care.

“One problem with the health care system is that it is split, and it is very disorganized,” Jeste says. “If you provided a unified, integrative, qualitative care, again the prognosis would improve a lot.”

Some primary care health systems are attempting to tackle the stigma of mental health by integrating mental health care with physical checkups.

Intermountain Healthcare, with hospitals and clinics throughout Utah and southeast Idaho, is trying to normalize team-based primary care in which a primary care physician has a team of experts to call upon to check on a patient depending on both physical and mental screenings during a regular doctor’s appointment.

Integrating the two establishes the connection between physical and mental health, says Dr. Brenda Reiss-Brennan, head of the health system’s mental health integration program.


“People like to go to where they are comfortable, and they’re comfortable in primary care,” Reiss-Brennan says. “Mental health is normalized as a routine part of care, so the staff’s more comfortable and confident in dealing with mental health.”

Doing so has saved each patient $115 a year, Reiss-Brennan says, from more efficient use of specialists, earlier detection and treatment, and follow-up care plans to more efficiently use all available resources.

And the federal government, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Health Resources and Services Administration, is working to bring mental health care information into the primary care setting, says Weakly of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“We know that most older adults are going to go to primary care physicians first,” Weakly says, so fusing behavioral health into primary care will get necessary information to physicians.

Practitioners need to also look at care in different ways, Weakly says, such as going to where people are instead of expecting them to come into the office for therapy or treatment.

“As people in their 50s and 60s are more open about talking about their depression or their bipolar disorder, their schizophrenia, I think things are beginning to change,” Weakly says. “People didn’t talk about cancer 50 years ago. I think maybe we’re getting to a place where people are more comfortable talking about their mental health diagnosis.”

Editor’s Note: Growing old in America today looks far different than it did 10 years ago. Older people are working throughout their golden years, are living longer, and many are choosing to age in place. As baby boomers hit the 65 and older mark, the share of seniors in the U.S. is rising drastically. This series explores what it’s like to age in 21st century America, and the issues officials must address to keep up with the nation’s changing demographics and culture. U.S. News determined which states are best serving their growing senior populations in a new Best States for Aging ranking.

5 Qualities of a Great Nursing Home

Whether you’re there for rehab after surgery or due to a lifelong illness, here’s what makes a nursing home great.

By Samantha Costa, Staff WriterNov. 16, 2016, at 12:01 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

5 Qualities of a Great Nursing Home

Close up of older woman and caretaker holding hands.

Top nursing homes demonstrate genuine care for each and every resident.(GETTY IMAGES)

WHEN SUE JOHANSEN’S husband, Chris, 57, was in a catastrophic car accident in 2014, she had just 24 hours to find a good nursing home in the San Francisco Bay area that could handle his rehabilitation. Sue Johansen was unusually qualified to do the search. A senior living advisor with A Place for Mom, a Seattle-based senior care referral service, she has done legwork for countless families in need of a top-notch facility for loved ones who are dealing with a host of health issues.

With her husband’s discharge looming, Johansen, 54, refused to be rushed. “Everything unfolds day by day, and you’re dealing with new information and ill-equipped [to do so],” she says. She stretched the search to six days until she was satisfied with the facility that suited Chris’ needs.

Whether the goal is a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation following an accident, round-the-clock care after a stroke or long-term care for a disabling condition like the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, great nursing homes all have five qualities:

They make it all about each resident. A genuine focus on each person as a unique individual is critical, says Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of AARP’s Public Policy Institute. A resident should never be defined by her illness or inability to grasp a fork. Treating residents like anyone else helps them feel like they’re in a safe, home-like environment.

The right nursing home can be a wonderful place, says nurse practitioner Barbara Resnick, a professor in the department of organizational systems and adult health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and past president of the American Geriatrics Society. “It’s all about the love,” she says. “It can be a million-dollar place with the newest renovations, but if there is no love, it’s not a home.”

When you visit prospective nursing homes, says Resnick, observe whether staffers greet residents and visitors with a smile. “The staff should be happy, and if the staff isn’t happy, you have a problem. Either you love working with older adults or you don’t. And if you don’t, it doesn’t make a happy home,” Resnick says. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends asking the manager what the staff will say to a person with dementia who constantly requests to go home. The answer indicates how the staff responds to challenging individuals.

This 84-year-old likens life in a nursing home to being on vacation or on a ‘mission trip.’

Kristine CraneMarch 5, 2015

Residents can make choices. They’re not ordered to go to sleep and wake up at certain times, and they have a say about what they can wear, the type of food on the menu and where they can eat. “I should be able to wear my own clothes and not a gown,” Reinhard says. “Does everyone have to get up at 7 a.m. if that’s not what they did their whole life? When it comes to meals, there should be a nice place to sit and be with others.” Ideally, for example, residents will have the choice between a big cafeteria and a smaller dining room. Some residents like to socialize at mealtime; others prefer to eat quietly by themselves or with one or two others at most. When visiting prospective facilities, shed light on this by asking: “Will Dad be able to share a meal with his family in private?” and “Can Mom eat alone if she feels like being left alone?”

There are lots of nurses and other professionals. There should be plenty of professionals, from physicians to registered nurses, family counselors, certified nursing assistants and aides, “especially for someone with pain medication needs or someone who requires a feeding tube,” says Sue Johansen. Residents in a nursing home to rehab after a hip replacement, for example, will need regular physical therapy tailored to the surgery; a stroke patient, on the other hand, may need a variety of specialists from a speech therapist to an occupational therapist in addition to ordinary nursing care.

Adequate numbers of medical staff can also help stave off trips to the emergency room. “Let’s say you were dehydrated,” Reinhard says. “Ideally, you could get IV treatment in the nursing home and not get shipped to the hospital.” In a study published March 24 in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, researchers found that almost half of all long-stay nursing home residents identified through records at Wishard Health Services (now known as Eskenazi Health Services) – a large public health system in Indianapolis – made at least one trip a year to the ER. That not only increases the risk for infection in seniors or people recovering from surgery, but adds stress for people with conditions like dementia.

They offer flexible extended visiting hours. The best nursing homes offer open visiting hours. “That’s something worth exploring, particularly if it’s important to the family member,” Resnick says. “Some nursing homes will help facilitate an overnight stay for you. So, say mom or dad had surgery or is sick. How well will the nursing home adapt to that? Will they bring in a cot for you? Is there a special room you could use?”

Plentiful and meaningful activities are offered. Bingo can be fun, but mindless games shouldn’t dominate the daily schedule. The best nursing homes offer myriad social, physical, interactive and educational activities and leave it up to residents to make choices. Is an outdoor area available for walking, eating or visiting family or friends? If your loved one has a disability, are activities offered for him? Some homes offer yoga classes for those in wheelchairs, for example. Will a staff member take someone in a wheelchair outside when a family member can’t come?

Exceptional homes give residents opportunities to engage in the meaningful tasks they once did at home. They might help deliver mail, or bring water pitchers to residents’ rooms, or read to others.

Some nursing homes bring in dogs or cats from local adoption or pet therapy groups. Others offer volunteer days, where community groups like the Boy Scouts visit. Or residents may be able to tutor young people in reading or sewing or model building. “For some, time spent in nursing homes is actually the best time in their life,” Resnick says. “It’s a community. That’s what you really want to feel when you walk in there. It’s a home.”

Meeting Tomorrow

Good Afternoon Friends and Members of NOCSC:

This is a reminder that we are meeting tomorrow morning, Tuesday, 18 September from 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. @ 130 W. Bastanchury Rd., Fullerton.  There will be current updates from Work Groups on:

  • Policy and Advocacy (local, state and federal)
  • Educational Forums (upcoming presentations)
  • 2018 Unmet Needs Survey on Loneliness (survey data outcomes and next steps)
  • Elder Abuse / Elder Justice
  • Website and FaceBook
  • Senior Care 101 Class, and
  • 2018-2019 Senior Resource Guide

 

An opportunity will be provided to sign up for a Work Group if you have not already done so, or if you’d like to change from your current Work Group.  Remember that members are expected to participate in at least one Work Group a year.  I have attached both the flyer for the next Educational Forum (16 October) and a map in case you have never been to the meeting before (GPS struggles sometimes with our location).

Please feel free to park in the parking structure and we will happily validate your parking.  See you tomorrow morning!

 

Step-By-Step Physical Health For Seniors

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Physical health is a major concern for many aging Americans. Everyday Health shares the fifteen most common ailments for senior citizens. Are you interested in avoiding these ailments? The process is far simpler than you might think.

Rather than spending thousands of dollars on special doctors and equipment, focus on improving your physical health on a day-to-day basis using the following steps.

 

  1. Get regular exercise.

 

As children, we are told that daily exercise can make a huge difference when it comes to our future. This is true, but you don’t necessarily need to start when you’re young. It’s never too late to master a new habit.

Here’s some good news. If you’ve got a pup you walk regularly, you’re already ahead of the game. Walking a dog is actually one of the best ways for seniors to get exercise. Having a four-legged friend also has mental health benefits, such as offering more social opportunities and improving mood.

If you haven’t focused on daily exercise before, not to worry. There are many great ways to get started. Find an aerobics class or gym where you can strengthen your body. A simple swim, walk, or jog will do the trick. Learn more about exercise and fitness tips while you age through Help Guide.

 

  1. Never miss an appointment with your doctor.

 

While you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a specialist, you do need to meet with your primary care physician regularly. Missing these appointments can be seriously dangerous to your health, especially if you start making assumptions about what your body needs. Before making any final decisions about your physical health or needs, speak with a doctor. Your regular screenings will ensure your methods are working.

 

  1. Consider physical therapy, if necessary.

 

If you’ve faced a recent injury, consider going through physical therapy. The experts you’ll meet will be able to help keep your body safe and healthy at the same time. You’ll also gain confidence and strength as you work your way through the process. Physical therapy isn’t easy – but it will get you back on your feet and ready for the daily exercise you need to stay healthy. Not convinced? NIH Senior Health offers more information about the benefits of exercise for seniors.

 

  1. Be aware of the risks.

 

As a senior, you are more susceptible to mental illness. This doesn’t mean you should hide in a corner and avoid the real world. It means you should be aware of the risks, should you choose not to focus on your physical health. Daily exercise and healthy habits can decrease your risk of developing depression and even addiction.

Healthy physical activities for seniors above the age of sixty-five include walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling, or household chores. You can also take part in games, sports, or community activities. While you should have more than two hours of physical activity each week, you should focus on twenty to twenty-five minutes of activity each day. Read more about recommended levels of physical activity for seniors through the World Health Organization.

 

  1. Maintain frequent and healthy physical habits.

 

The most important thing you can do while attempting to improve your physical health is to develop daily habits. These habits will become second nature to you, making them easier to accomplish on a regular basis. For example, if you have trouble with daily exercise, make a morning walk your newest habit. Once you’ve gone for a morning walk ten days in a row, you’ll start to feel obligated. This is how great, and healthy, habits are formed.

You can also use the ten-day rule to break bad habits. If you still eat too much sugar or sodium on a daily basis, try to decrease your consumption for ten days. You’ll find your appetite for junk food has significantly decreased.

Mastering new physical habits as a senior can be hard, but not impossible. Focus on your physical health and improve your outlook for the future.

 

Author: Jason Lewis

Consider an In-Patient Rehab Facility Before You Suffer a Fall

Researching your options may help you avoid a dilemma in a crisis situation.

By Heidi Godman, Contributor
 
U.S. News & World Report

Don’t Wait to Suffer a Fall

Patient having physical therapy in hospital

Start with your insurance company and find out which facilities are covered under your plan.(ANDERSEN ROSS/GETTY IMAGES)

AS A SAVVY MEDICAL consumer, you may already know which hospital you’d go to in an emergency or which doctor you’d turn to for a particular procedure. But many people never plan where they’d go for a few weeks or months of in-patient rehabilitation to recuperate from a fall. That choice may not even occur to a family until Mom, Dad or a spouse winds up in the hospital. “The case manager comes in and says, ‘Look at these facilities and tell us where you want to go so we can start our paperwork.’ The family and patients are overwhelmed,” says Dr. Saket Saxena, a geriatrician at Cleveland Clinic.

But it may be time to give the scenario a little thought. This year 1 out of every 4 older adults will fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 percent of those people will suffer a serious injury, such as a broken hip or a head injury. While the best option is to go home after hospitalization for a fall, where you can rely on in-home or out-patient follow-up treatment, not everyone is well enough or has the support at home. It could help to know which rehab facility would be best for your family, should you ever need to stay in one.

What Are the Choices?

In-patient rehab is meant to be a temporary transition stage between the hospital and your return home. “After a fall, your ability to walk may be compromised. You may not be able to carry out the activities of daily living. You may need physical therapy and occupational therapy in order to go home again. Or you may have a wound that needs to be dressed every day,” explains Dr. Carla Perissinotto, associate chief for geriatric clinical programs at the University of California—San Francisco.

 There are two types of in-patient rehab facilities: acute care (in a stand-alone facility or within a hospital) and skilled nursing (beds within a nursing home that are intended for a short-term stay). Both have round-the-clock nurses and certified nursing assistants. Both kinds of facilities also have physical therapists and occupational therapists on staff.

But acute rehab is intense. It’s only for patients who can tolerate more than three hours per day of rehabilitation. This type of rehab facility has doctors and specialists (like physiatrists) on staff or on-site every day to oversee treatment (skilled nursing facilities typically have fewer visits from doctors) and has more services (such as prosthetics departments and wheelchair clinics) and equipment (such as X-ray machines or high-tech physical therapy equipment) than a skilled nursing facility.

Before you’re discharged from the hospital, your doctor and a hospital physical therapist will determine which type of in-patient rehab is most appropriate for you.

Shopping in Advance

Because the quality of care and services at in-patient facilities varies, you may want to do some comparison shopping well in advance of an emergency – especially when you’re healthy and able to make decisions without stress or pressure.

Start by using Medicare tools to look up available facilities and see how they compare. The Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Compare tool will enable you to look for acute care rehab facilities and view information about the kinds of ailments they treat and the number of infections, complications and hospital readmissions they report.

The Nursing Home Compare tool enables you to search for skilled nursing facilities and see how they rate in inspections and quality of care. You can even see how many minutes each type of staffer (like a nurse or physical therapist) usually spends with a patient.

U.S. News also offers helpful tools to assist your search for information about rehab facilities and nursing homes.

Another idea: Start with your insurance company and find out which facilities are covered under your plan. From there, look up the ratings and services provided by each facility.

Once you find a few possibilities that interest you, consider visiting each one. “Go there and see how clean the facility looks and how friendly the people are. Ask to look at the rehabilitative space in terms of physical and occupational therapy and communal spaces for joint meals,” Perissinotto says. She also suggests that you consider a facility’s location. “If you have a choice, find a place that’s easy for your family to get to, so they can visit. Being in a rehab facility can be isolating.”

Saxena advises that you observe whether the staff seems overwhelmed, and recommends that you ask about the food (since patients may stay in a rehab facility for weeks or months).

Saxena also says it helps to consider a rehab facility that’s affiliated with your hospital. That way, the rehab facility physicians will have access to your hospital records and information about your treatment, medications, lab work and follow-up appointments that may be scheduled. “I think it helps in preventing many mistakes that can happen during the transition from the hospital to the rehab facility,” Saxena says.

The Best Laid Plans

Just because you have an idea of which facility you’d like to stay in, it doesn’t mean that there will be an available bed if you ever need it. Space may be limited at the facility you prefer. “Sometimes you just have to go where the bed is available,” Perissinotto says.

Your hospital caseworker will make sure a rehab facility has space for you and takes your insurance, if you haven’t already learned that information.

But both Perissinotto and Saxena say it’s reasonable to have some preferences for certain rehab facilities in your area, and to use those preferences as a starting place. For example, maybe through advance investigating you learn about a facility near your home that has a great reputation for care and the best food in town. Or you may learn about a facility not far from home that has the latest high-tech machines used in physical therapy. Knowing that information would help you make an informed decision, should the need ever arise. At the very least, it may be help ease a very stressful situation.

“We can’t recommend a facility. It’s all the patient’s choice,” Saxena says. “It’s a critical decision, and it’s a lot to handle for the patient and the family members.”