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Tips for Understanding Different Types of Post-Acute Care Facilities

For those of you who have needed to look into continued care after being hospitalized you may have been bombarded with acronyms commonly used to describe post-acute care settings such as SNF, LTAC, and IRF etc. My goal for this post is to help you understand their differences.

First, let’s start with some definitions, which you can also find on the Rockfish glossary page.

  • Long Term Acute Care: LTAC
    A long term acute care facility is a transitional hospital facility after a traditional hospital stay designed for patients with serious medical problems that require physician driven treatment for an extended period of time — usually 20 to 30 days.

  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility: IRF
    An inpatient rehabilitation facility is a type of transitional hospital facility usually after a traditional hospital designed to provide an intensive rehabilitation program to patients able to participate in >3hrs of occupational, speech and/or physical therapy.

  • Skilled Nursing Facility: SNF
    Is a post-acute facility designed for patients that are unable to participate in more than 3 hours of therapy but have needs requiring credentialed healthcare providers such as nurses and therapists to provide care such as intravenous medication administration or physical therapy.

  • Nursing Home/Facility: NF
    Sometimes the term nursing home is interchanged with a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), intermediate care facility, or convalescent home. However, the formal definition is that it is a post-acute care facility that provides non-skilled care to those who are chronically ill or unable to take care of daily living needs.

    The non-skilled care needs are typically higher than what an assisted living facility can handle. Often skilled nursing facilities will have beds designated for nursing home residents which they name “long-term beds,” whereas, the “short-term beds” are for residents with skilled-needs.

  • Assisted Living Facility: ALF
    A healthcare facility for individuals who are able to live independently but may need help with some ADLs. Residents often reside in their own apartments and will have access to facility-provided meals, recreational activities, and light housekeeping services.

If you’re feeling confused, that’s perfectly normal. In fact, the distinction between these types of facilities is not black and white. It’s best to think of them as a spectrum of care. The more care you need after a hospitalization the more likely you will need facilities towards the top of the table, and the less care you need then you are more suitable for the facilities towards the bottom of the table.

MD visit first 24 hours Nursing hours / day Approx $ / day
LTAC Yes 8 $1000
IRF Yes 8 $1000
SNF No 4 $400
Nursing Home No 3 $200
Assisted Living No <3 $110

Many are surprised that a physician won’t necessarily be there to greet you at these types of facilities. That’s not uncommon. It’s important to understand that post-acute care facilities are not hospitals.

I will stop here for now. More to come!