Open Accessibility Menu

Therapy Services in Skilled Nursing Facilities: Helping Residents Live Life to the Fullest

  • Category: News, Skilled Nursing
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Allied Services Integrated Health
Therapy Services in Skilled Nursing Facilities: Helping Residents Live Life to the Fullest

If you have had experience helping a parent or elderly loved one navigate care following an illness, you will have done some research into nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The two terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are important differences. One major difference between nursing homes and SNFs is the range and depth of medical services available. Examples of skilled nursing services include wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, catheter care, therapy, and monitoring of vital signs and medical equipment.

Although the type and intensity will vary for short and long-term residents, therapy services play a very important role in the physical and emotional well-being of both groups. Whether helping a short-term resident return home or working to reduce the arthritis pain of a long-term resident, therapists are experts in maintaining, promoting, or restoring function and with it, quality of life for residents.

Short-term residents

Short-term residents at SNFs are typically admitted from hospital following an injury or illness. The therapy team works with physicians and other medical professionals to design an individualized therapy plan to address the resident’s needs. While working on restoring the resident’s function, the therapy team will also work on preparing the resident for life after they leave the facility.

Physical therapy for a resident recovering from a stroke will focus on improving strength and function, while also educating the resident on how to use assistive devices and safely transfer from the bed or bath to a wheelchair. For a resident recovering from a hip fracture or joint replacement, it can help to reduce pain, inflammation, and stiffness and reduce the risk of further injury by improving balance and gait.

Occupational therapy may focus on exercises that restore the resident’s lost function while also teaching them how to perform everyday tasks in new ways. For example, a resident preparing to return home following an injury may need to learn how to prepare or transport a meal while using a walker. The occupational therapist can provide a safe transition home with environmental modifications and adaptive equipment.

Speech therapy also has an important role to play. For example, a resident who has had a stroke may not be able to tolerate or safely swallow regular texture foods. The speech therapist can work on safe swallow strategies and techniques to promote the safest, least restrictive diet level.

Long-term residents

For long-term residents, therapy services can help to slow the disabling effects of progressive disease. Physical therapy can address a resident’s decreased balance and unsteady gait to increase independence in and around the facility, and limit their fall risk. Occupational therapy can help to increase safety and efficiency with activities of daily living. For example, occupational therapists may work on special seating adjustments to increase comfort when out of bed or provide adaptive equipment to allow residents to feed themselves when there is a loss of range of motion or strength. Speech therapy can help slow down the progression of memory loss and maintain cognitive function and memory. The speech therapist may work on memory, problem-solving, and safety awareness.

Whether the goal is to return home or live well in long-term care, therapists as a team help residents to live life to the fullest. They provide residents with the tools, support, and techniques to overcome or work around barriers, and reach their highest potential.

Melissa Posluszny, MS, OTR/L, is Executive Director of Rehab Services at Allied Services Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in Scranton.