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Discharge planning: Choosing the right skilled nursing facility

Discharge planning: Choosing the right skilled nursing facility

By: Joan Borowitz, a resident at Wingate at Needham

It’s been several months since I’ve written about what’s going on here at Wingate at Needham. Since my last entry, I’ve had several long-term hospitalizations. If any good were to come of them, it was my one-month stay in the wonderful Sargent post-acute center here at Wingate at Needham, where I received excellent care from my incredible physical and occupational therapists in the rehab department.

I am now convalescing in my home unit of Copley. It’s hard to be grounded during the holidays with all of my Quaker community back in Cambridge, but I’m trying to stay upbeat. I spent Thanksgiving here eating a nice meal with my Wingate family, listening to a great live performance and doing what I’ve come to be known for here: watching Barbra Streisand DVDs 24/7! I’m especially looking forward to Wingate’s holiday celebration for residents, staff, family and friends later this month. It’s wonderful to all be together and sharing family, friends and visitors as we usher in the holidays at Wingate.

While recovering, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my time at Wingate at Needham so far, and have come to realize how important it is to find the right skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility before leaving a hospital, as it can truly make a difference in your recovery and overall well-being.

Skilled nursing facilities are a stepping stone for people who can’t return home following a hospitalization due to medical complications, an extended recovery process or an inability to care for themselves without additional help. Because of the important role skilled nursing facilities play in patients’ recovery, it’s important to find the right facility for you.

Doing so requires planning. If you’re preparing for surgery at a hospital, you should discuss discharge arrangements with your doctors beforehand and let them know which skilled nursing facility you plan to stay at once you leave. Be sure to discuss multiple options with your doctor, as some facilities may be full. You’ll also want to ensure that your health insurance will cover your stay at the facility you choose, especially if you are insured by Medicare or Medicaid. If a crisis hits and you need to find a skilled nursing facility’s services last-minute, still turn to your healthcare team for guidance and use them as a resource. Many hospitals have staff who coordinate discharge planning and can help guide you to a reputable facility.

When it comes to creating a list of skilled nursing facilities that you’d be comfortable staying at, there are several key factors to consider: the facility’s location, atmosphere, dining options and housing accommodations. For example, not all skilled nursing facilities offer single occupancy rooms. If privacy is important to you, be sure to ask about accommodations when searching for facilities. If you can, visit the skilled nursing facilities you’re considering. You can also ask a friend or relative to go in your place.

It’s also important to consider the quality of care at skilled nursing facilities since this is where you will work to regain your strength and health. Your top priority should be ensuring the facility can handle patients with your specific medical condition. Ask the following essential questions:
How often has this facility treated patients with the same or similar conditions, and what is the success rate of patient recovery? Quality facilities will be able to offer you data related to their care.

  • How many therapists work at the facility?
  • Will I generally see the same therapist?
  • Will I have therapy every day, including weekends?
  • How long will my therapy sessions last?
  • Will there be a provider in charge of my overall care?

Superior facilities will also provide your loved ones and caregivers with the necessary knowledge and support they’ll need to care for you once you return home. Look for a facility that offers presentations, workshops and other special events for caregivers, as this will ensure your support team is able to help you continue recovering once you leave the facility.

No one wants to move to a skilled nursing facility — everyone’s wish is to remain healthy and active as long as possible. I know I felt that way. But when a move to skilled nursing becomes necessary, you want to make sure you have some say in where you end up. If you do your research ahead of time, you could find a rehab center that’s more than just a facility — you could get lucky, like me, and end up at a wonderful community, surrounded by helpful and caring people.

I may be rehabbing and recovering for the next several weeks, but I know I’ll still be able to enjoy the holidays with my family here at Wingate at Needham. And I wish you the same: a very happy and healthy holiday season with your loved ones!

About the author:

Joan Borowitz is a resident at Wingate at Needham and a freelance writer. For two years, she had a column in the Hopkinton Crier entitled “Sentimental Journeys.” Joan was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and left home at age 17 to live and study in a tiny Quaker boarding school in Barnesville, Ohio. After graduation, she moved to Boston and attended Simmons College. She graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. In addition to professional writing and hospital administration, she had a successful five-year stint as Boston’s only female Jewish standup comedian. She formed a comedy group in Boston called “Class Acts,” which performed in many local comedy clubs. Currently, she is a resident at Wingate at Needham, where you can find her writing and playing piano for the residents.