Ask Joan: The confusion around types of rehabilitation
October 11, 2021
Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

Question: My elderly mother is currently in the hospital with both COVID-19 and a urinary tract infection. She has slowly been making progress and will soon be discharged. She remains frail and sleeps a great deal of the time but won’t require the level of medical care she has been receiving. Today, the hospital told me she is not appropriate for their acute rehabilitation unit but will need skilled services when she is discharged. I find this very confusing. Do you have any advice?

Answer: Acute rehabilitation usually takes place in a medical hospital or stand-alone rehabilitation hospital. According to medical experts, the patients who meet the criteria for these services have often experienced a major medical trauma such as a stroke, extensive burns, a brain injury, or other serious illness. Their medical team determines that these individuals could not recover without this intensive intervention. All patients must be capable of actively participating in the therapy and able to respond to verbal, visual, and/or tactile stimulation.

The physicians and their colleagues involved in your mother’s hospital care may have determined she is too frail to enroll in acute rehabilitation care. They may be prescribing sub-acute rehabilitation, which can be done inpatient at a skilled nursing facility or in the home. This includes elements of acute rehabilitation delivered in a community setting, at a level she can tolerate to her benefit. A team of skilled therapists will monitor her progress and communicate with you once they believe she has achieved her maximum potential.

It is best to discuss the options available for your mother before she is discharged. Our staff at Elder Services can assist you in learning more about those choices so you can make an informed decision.

I wish you and your mother the very best.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

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