When you no longer need the amount of care provided in the hospital, the hospital will begin a process to discharge you.
Most people hope to go directly home from the hospital. Even if you and your doctor planned for you to go home, your recovery may be slower than expected. As a result, you may need to be transferred to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility.
Who needs to go to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility?
One or more of the following factors may mean you no longer need the amount of care provided in the hospital, but you need more care than you and your loved ones can manage at home.
Before you can go home from the hospital, you must be able to:
Safely use your cane, walker, or crutches
Get in and out of a chair or bed without needing much help
Walk around enough that you will be able to safely move between your sleeping area, your bathroom, and your kitchen
Go up and down stairs, if there is no other way to avoid them in your home
Other factors may also prevent you from going directly home from the hospital, such as:
Not enough help at home
Because of where you live, you need to be stronger or more mobile before going home
Medical problems -- such as diabetes, lung problems, and heart problems -- that are not well controlled
Medicines that cannot safely be given at home
Surgical wounds that need frequent care
Common medical problems that often lead to skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility care include:
Joint replacement surgery, such as for the knees, hips, or shoulders
Long stays in the hospital for any medical problem
Skilled nursing facilities provide care for people who are not yet able to care for themselves at home. The goal is for you to return home and care for yourself.
A doctor will supervise your care. Other trained health care providers will help you grow stronger:
Registered nurses will care for your wound, give you the right medicines, and monitor other medical problems.
Physical therapists will teach you how to make your muscles stronger. They will help you learn how to get up and sit down safely from a chair, toilet, or bed. They will also teach you how to climb steps, keep your balance, and use your walker, cane, or crutches.
Occupational therapists will teach you the skills you need to do everyday tasks at home.
Speech and language therapists will evaluate and treat problems with swallowing, speaking, and understanding.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare coverage of skilled nursing facility care. Available at http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10153.pdf. Accessed August 20, 2013.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.