Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
In most of my long-term care career, I’ve witnessed short-term rehabilitation (STR) residents housed together, but occasionally facilities have scattered them throughout the building. I don’t know the reasoning behind dispersing residents, but from my perspective, dedicated rehab units work better.
My thinking is based on the fact that people entering rehab are almost invariably in the middle of a life crisis (see The stress of nursing home admission) – as are their family members – and that staff members are often stretched to the limits of their capacity to manage their responsibilities.
Keeping rehab residents together is better because:
STR residents lodged together find a group of peers in the same situation as themselves, which can be enormously reassuring in anxiety-provoking times.
Co-housing makes it more likely that STR residents will develop stress-reducing friendships and find a team of peers to support their progress in rehab. The ability to form friendships with peers is one of the major strengths and selling points of long-term care.
Being around LTC residents can be alarming for STR residents, who usually have fears that they’ll “never get out.” Observing others being discharged upon completing rehab can ease their apprehension.
STR residents, who are frequently younger and more cognitively intact, can feel isolated on LTC floors that have fewer people with whom to engage socially, and none in their particular situation. This increases their depression and anxiety.
Family members can benefit greatly from talking with other families in similar situations. They’re much more likely to meet other families “in the trenches” on an STR unit. Yes, there are families on the long-term floors, but they’re in marathon mode while STR families are sprinting through a crisis that has reordered their lives.