One of the most important – and difficult – decisions you may face is the selection of a rehabilitation facility. Philosophies and capabilities can be vastly different from one facility to the next. While some facilities are traditional rehab, others are more geared towards providing nursing home-type accommodations. Look for rehab facilities that cover the entire spectrum of inpatient and outpatient services from doctors and therapists to case managers and dieticians.

As you carefully explore your options and tour prospective facilities, you are encouraged to consider asking these five questions:

Is Facility Accredited?

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations accreditation rehabilitation facilities. JCAHCO officials visit facilities with this accreditation every three years to conduct extensive, multi-day evaluations covering all aspects of care.

Does the Facility Actually Specialize in Rehabilitation Care?

Medicare gives certified stamp of approval for facilities that specialize in rehabilitation care. That means the staff is particularly trained in acute rehabilitation care. Check to see if facility offers other specialized programs such aquatic therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy or even brain injury, stroke, orthopedic and cardiac rehabilitation programs. Look also for a facility that has a physician on site 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and preferably with internist with critical care training.

Is the Facility Clean?

Consider how you feel as you walk into the door. Make sure it does not carry odors or look dirty. Patient rooms should contain certain home comforts such as TVs, phones and showers / baths. Is the décor appealing, soothing and functional? Are there pleasant outdoor areas and are indoor hallways tidy and spacious?

What Is Nurse To Patient Ratio?

One nurse to every five or six patients is considered ideal. Quality nurse-to-patient ratios are said to yield important benefits, such as faster healing and positive outlooks. Be careful of facilities that are heavily staffed with CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants). CNAs are not registered nurses specializing in rehabilitation care.

How Much Therapy Will the Patient Receive?

On average, rehabilitation facilities provide far more therapy than nursing homes. A good range for therapy hours would be from 1 to 3 per day, though spread out at different times during the day. Therapy should also be progressive as the patient gains strength during their stay. As for the type of therapy they receive, it varies depending upon the therapists and specialists assigned to the case.

Treat The Choice Like Buying a Home

Do not allow the decisions of which facility is best for your loved one fall to hospital case workers. When asking questions about the facility, make sure you are talking with a case worker on the staff at the rehab facility before placing a patient there. Even after you've come across a facility that appeals to you, shop around until fully satisfied. This is a vital decision that must be made wisely and compassionately.