Saturday, 17 March 2018

POST-ACUTE CARE FOR CAREGIVERS: MANAGING THE CHALLENGES


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I am very excited to host this guest post about managing post-acute care in our loved ones. In my family, we've had to learn about options the hard way. This is a great roundup of information to make decision-making about post-hospital supports a whole lot easier - Donna

Post-Acute Care for Caregivers: Managing the Challenges and Complexities of the Recovery Process
One of the most challenging experiences for caregivers can be managing the recovery process after their loved one is hospitalized.  Sometimes it’s not the hospitalization that is most difficult, but rather the specialized follow-up care that many seniors require after discharge.  This care, called post-acute care, is one of the most important parts of the recovery process.  It’s also one of the most misunderstood and difficult-to-navigate parts of our healthcare system.
Post-acute care is important for many reasons.  Patients who receive high-quality post-acute care following a major health episode experience greater and faster recoveries. It can also decrease total healthcare spending, especially out of pocket costs.

More often than not, post-acute care decisions are left to caregivers in time constrained and stressful situations.  By taking some time and using the right resources to research options, caregivers can find facilities and services that best meet their loved ones needs. 
Usually, the doctor or nurse will inform the patient and family or caregiver about post-acute care needs before or shortly after hospital admission.  In some cases, however, you might not find out what services are needed until after treatment when your loved one is getting ready to leave the hospital.  It’s important to start researching post-acute care facilities as soon as you know what follow-up care is required.  
The selection process begins with understanding what type of healthcare services are required. There are four main types of post-acute care providers, and each specializes in certain types of services and settings.
·      Medical home health care agencies provide skilled medical professionals to deliver healthcare services in the home following an illness or injury.  Common services include wound care, intravenous or nutrition therapy, injections, and physical therapy.
·      Skilled nursing facilities are residential healthcare locations for patients who no longer need to be in a hospital but require a higher level of medical care than can be provided at home.  Common services include rehabilitation therapy, speech and language services, and complex wound and medication care.
·      Inpatient rehabilitation facilities provide intensive, hospital level, multi-disciplinary physical or occupational therapy under the supervision of a doctor. Full-time skilled nursing care is also provided for recovery from severe care conditions, such as stroke or traumatic brain injuries.
·      Long term care hospitals offer the same level of care as traditional hospitals or intensive care units, but over a longer period of time (usually a month). Patients typically have around-the-clock access to physician services.
Hospitals sometimes assign a discharge planner or case manager to help plan the patient recovery journey from hospital to home.  This person can be a great resource to discuss post-acute care options.  Once you know the type and setting of care needed, there are some other important factors to consider:
·      Understand Medical Needs:
o   Talk to a medical professional to better understand your post-acute care options based on the patient’s medical needs.
o   If your loved one has a specific medical condition (diabetes, chronic disease, wound care, etc.), narrow down your search based on specialty services offered.
·      Verify Insurance Coverage:
o   Make sure that the post-acute care provider accepts the appropriate insurance and the type of care is covered under the patient’s insurance policy.
·      Compare Quality and Services:
o   Compare healthcare providers based on Medicare quality data and other important information such as patient reviews and health inspection reports.
·      Visit the Facility or Talk to Staff (if possible):
o   Ask the agency how they handle different situations and how the patient care plan and needs will be addressed.
o   If visiting, talk to current employees and residents about their experiences. Evaluate the facility’s cleanliness, amenity options, and medical specializations.
Choosing a follow up care provider is an important and emotional decision.  Make sure to take the time to support your loved one through the decision-making process. There are many resources and patient support groups available online for caregivers looking to find out more about the post-acute care process. As always with caregiving, empathy, patience, and support are the ingredients for a successful journey through the recovery process.

About the Author:
Ryan Miller is co-founder of repisodic, a healthcare company that helps patients, families and healthcare professionals find the highest quality, personalized post-acute care.  repisodic’s website (www.repisodic.com) provides free, comprehensive profiles of every post-acute care provider (skilled nursing, home health care, nursing homes, etc.) in the country in addition to resources such as guides and articles on a variety of healthcare topics.

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