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Comparing Acute Care and Subacute Care for Rehabilitation

Senior woman visiting her recovering husband who is lying on the bed. Female embracing her sick husband lying on hospital bed.

If you or a loved one has been hospitalized for surgery or treatment for a serious illness or injury, you probably have a lot of questions about what happens next. Your medical team at the hospital might start talking about the next phase of recovery as soon as you or your loved one is stabilized, whether that be in an acute care, subacute care or long-term care setting. Making decisions about different care options and costs can be overwhelming when you’re not sure what it all means. Let’s compare acute care and subacute care for short-term rehabilitation, plus what it means if long-term care is needed down the road.

Every person’s rehabilitation plan following a hospital stay or surgery is different, and your medical team may recommend weeks or months of recovery based on your condition. Although a medical professional will help you determine the appropriate level of care required based on your medical needs, having a basic understanding of the options for rehabilitation can make things easier for you and your family. 

Acute Care vs. Subacute Care

Acute care and subacute care are both levels of care designed to help people recover after hospitalization or treatment for a serious injury or illness. Whether you or your loved one qualifies for acute care or subacute rehabilitation will depend on the severity of the illness or injury and the desired recovery plan. Here are some of the key differences between these two levels of care:

What Is Acute Care for Rehabilitation?

Acute rehabilitation is an intensive approach to rehabilitation provided by a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Key features include:

  • Therapy sessions typically last 3 hours or more each day and are provided at least 5 days per week.
  • The medical team provides daily progress assessments and therapy plan updates. 
  • Therapy may include a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapies, plus additional therapies such as respiratory therapy, if needed.
  • Acute care is often provided in a hospital setting with round-the-clock care by registered nurses.

Acute care may be recommended for recovery after a heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, COPD and other respiratory illnesses and following certain types of surgery. This level of care is usually recommended for those who are strong enough to undergo lengthy therapy sessions at least 5 days a week and could benefit from a highly intensive approach to recovery.

What Is Subacute Care for Rehabilitation?

Subacute rehabilitation is a specialized level of care geared for medically fragile individuals who need intensive rehabilitation at a pace that matches their abilities. Key features include:

  • Therapy sessions typically last for 2 hours or less each day.
  • There are frequent meetings (at least monthly) to update care plans and share progress with the person receiving therapy, their family and care team.
  • Therapy may include a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapies, plus additional therapies such as respiratory therapy, if needed.
  • Subacute care is often provided in a rehabilitation center or in a skilled nursing care setting within a senior living community.

Subacute care is a level of care that provides rehabilitation for those recovering from a stroke, pulmonary illness, heart disease, hip or knee fracture, hip or knee replacement surgery, brain injury and more. Subacute care for rehabilitation may be recommended for someone who has completed acute treatment and still needs therapy to regain function or those who are very ill or have a health condition that makes it difficult to withstand the lengthy daily therapy sessions required in an acute care setting.

When Is Long-Term Care Needed?

A person may go through acute care and/or subacute care for short-term rehabilitation and then still need additional therapy and round-the-clock care on a long-term basis. Long-term care may be the best option for those who need continuing care and significant help with tasks of daily living. This level of care may be needed for the long term in cases when a person’s chronic illness or disability requires skilled nursing care. Therapy services may also be provided for residents who qualify for rehabilitation services.

We’re Here to Support Your Recovery

When you need short-term rehabilitation for yourself or a loved one, you want to find the support you need to make a quick recovery. At Autumn Leaves, you’ll receive high-quality subacute care from a physician-supervised team of therapists, nurses and social workers dedicated to helping each person recover to their fullest potential. Contact us to learn more about our exceptional senior rehabilitation center in Dallas, TX.

You Are Invited to Experience Our Community!

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