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Rehab Centers vs Nursing Homes: the Hot Debate

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rehab centers vs nursing homes

Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by ashley.davis


Choosing which facility to take your loved one can be a tough choice. And deciding between Rehab Centers vs Nursing Homes is especially difficult. 

You want the faster healing benefits of rehab but also want the specialized geriatric care that Nursing Homes provide. And the gradual blurring of lines between the two facilities has not made it easier. 

It is essential to understand what each type of facility offers to pick the best one for your loved one. And below are the differences, similarities, and ways in which they work together.

Questions to ask yourself :

  • Do you need short-term or long-term care?
  • What are your goals for your loved one’s care?

Would you like to know more about other Senior Living options? Check out more information here.

What Is a Nursing Home?

rehab nursing homes

A Nursing Home is a facility that provides nursing and personal care to old and disabled people.

What kind of services do Nursing Homes offer?

Nursing Home Facilities (NHFs) provide patients with the highest level of care outside of hospitals. They help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as walking, bathing, grooming, and eating. 

NHFs are comfort or terminal-based care facilities. A majority of the residents have lost their ability to care for themselves on a functional or physical level. 

Unlike rehabs that are popular for high-intensity therapy, NHFs offer low-intensity therapy to accommodate a slow recovery. Most residents are weak and frail, thus the need for the adaptation of care to their tolerance.

As a rule of thumb, high-intensity therapy is only allowed if the patient can withstand 3 hours. Therapy in NHFs mainly keeps the patients active and mobile and is often delegated to nursing staff or a therapeutic recreation person. 

NHFs are residential facilities and are licensed as long-term facilities. They are made to feel like a new home for the resident. Patients are even encouraged to bring their pieces of furniture to make the living space their own. 

NHFs go a step further in their care to meet their patients’ physical and social, and emotional needs by providing personal care and social and recreational activities. 

What Are Rehabilitation Centers?

rehab nursing homes

Rehabilitation Centers are private or public facilities that provide therapy or training to complete recovery after major surgery, accident, or stroke. 

Who needs rehab?

You should consider rehab for your loved ones if they require intensive therapy and are likely to regain control of their bodies and get back to the lives they had before rehab with the help of professionals.

They are for patients who may have suffered a traumatic brain injury, the effects of a long-term terminal, amputation, or debilitating illness. 

What services do they offer?

Rehabs offer physical, speech, occupational therapy, and counseling focused on restoring independence. They help patients regain mobility, strength, and balance to resume everyday life independently in society. Each facility is different, and some may also provide specialized treatments as well.

Most Rehab centers fall under short-term facilities, and beds have a quick turnaround time. Their aim is to get the patients back on their feet as quickly and safely as possible. Nursing Homes, in contrast, are more likely to accept patients who won’t transition back to their previous daily routine.

Unlike Nursing Homes, most rehab staff are trained to deal with patients of all ages and not just older adults. The most common reason senior citizens go to rehab centers is that they are recovering from an injury or procedure like a hip or knee replacement, stroke, or heart disease.

Is Rehab a type of Skilled Nursing Facility?

No. Rehab is not a type of  Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). SNFs have long-term-care certified nurses as the majority of its staff. While short-term, rehab-certified-staff populate rehabs. A rehab center is more intensive in its approach than an SNF.

Rehab Centers vs Nursing Homes: the Key Differences

nurse helping a senior

Rehab Centers provide short-term rehabilitative care through intensive therapy to help patients resume their everyday lives. On the other hand, Nursing Homes provide personal or nursing care for long-term or end-of-life patients. 

Nursing Homes Rehabilitation Centers
Specialize in older peopleCater to all ages
Focus on offering end-of-life comfort careFocus on recovery to resume life in society
Specialize in fragile and frail patients who cannot withstand acute therapyTreat semi-weak patients who are strong enough to undergo acute therapy
Most patients suffer from debilitating illnesses and need to be monitored by medical professionalsMost patients have been treated in hospital and require the attention of a physical therapist to complete recovery

As you can see from the table, there is a vast difference between Nursing Home-provided care and Rehab-provided care.

Do Nursing Homes Do Rehab?

nurse helping a senior

Yes. Nursing Homes offer low-intensity rehabilitation services to keep patients mobile and active. Some have rehabilitation wings that provide high-intensity therapy, but most NHF patients are too weak and frail to withstand it.

Do they work together?

In some cases, Rehabs and Nursing Homes work together. A patient may start at rehab and transition to a Nursing Home. Or from a Nursing Home to rehab and then back to the Nursing Home. 

Newer facilities combine Nursing Homes and Rehab Centers under one roof to allow patients to transition from service to service with ease and peace of mind. A patient can transition between the two until they can go back to their everyday lives.

How many days does medicare pay for rehab in Nursing Home?

Medicare pays for the first 100 days of a patient’s stay at a Nursing home facility each benefit period. Care can be partially or fully covered by Medicare depending on the terms of the treatment and how long your loved one will need care.


So yes, you can not compare Rehab Centers vs Nursing Homes. There isn’t one that is better than the other. They have different goals and thus different treatments, so you need to observe what kind of treatment your loved one needs and can handle to know which of the two will work better for them.

Ask your doctor’s office for recommendations on which facility would be more suitable for your loved one’s needs and goals. And then, do thorough research into the facilities you look into through on-site observation. Ask the hard questions and be very picky. Discuss with your loved one and family members to choose the suitable facility. 

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