Does Some Short-Term Rehab Care Actually Harm Patients?

Elder man with walker being aided by orderly

The New York Times (NYT) reports that many nursing homes are offering more amenities in an effort to attract patients that are in need of short-term rehabilitation. Short-term care can be a good option for a convalescing elderly person who has just been released from the hospital.

Some nursing home experts are beginning to wonder, however, if the homes should be focusing more on the quality of their care and less on promoting “luxury living.” Rehabilitative care requires intensive medical treatment provided by skilled nurses, aides and doctors. Many nursing homes that boast luxury living quarters are often short on nurses and some facilities do not have even one doctor on staff.

Also mentioned in the NYT article is the fact that the once-struggling nursing home industry has now become a “bull market.” Investors are eager to buy homes with the potential to bring in the most money. Medicare payments have become a lucrative income source for those investors. Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly, pays 84 percent more for short-term patients than Medicaid, which generally covers long-term residents.

Short Term Care Recipients in Nursing Homes Report Preventable Harm

In a recent study, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General found that 22 percent of Medicare patients that remained in nursing homes for 35 days or less experienced adverse advents as a result of their care. The study also concluded that $2.8 billion was spent by Medicare in 2011 in order to treat the harm experienced in those nursing facilities.  Here’s the relevant section from that study:

An estimated 22 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their SNF [skilled nursing facility] stays. An additional 11 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced temporary harm events during their SNF stays. Physician reviewers determined that 59 percent of these adverse events and temporary harm events were clearly or likely preventable. They attributed much of the preventable harm to substandard treatment, inadequate resident monitoring, and failure or delay of necessary care. Over half of the residents who experienced harm returned to a hospital for treatment, with an estimated cost to Medicare of $208 million in August 2011. This equates to $2.8 billion spent on hospital treatment for harm caused in SNFs in FY 2011.

Nursing homes are not meant to be vacation homes; patients admitted for temporary care have serious medical needs that need attention. Perhaps if nursing homes became more competitive on the basis of the care that they provided to their patients and less interested in luring patients with the thought of luxury, suffering for those patient could be avoided.

Adding to the dangers of short-term care is the fact that hospitals are attempting to cut their costs by releasing patients early, even when more time is needed for the person to recover adequately before returning home.

In our opinion, medical negligence at many short-term rehab facilities is a serious problem in the United States. Everyone that enters a medical facility has the right to receive the accepted standard of care. If your loved one has suffered an injury, illness, worsened condition or other form of damage due to negligent care in a short term rehab facility or nursing home, please speak with a nursing home abuse attorney from our firm today. We can inform you of your options and help you to understand what to do about this violation of trust. For more information contact our injury lawyer today at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson.


Injured patients and their families need solid legal guidance after a serious medical error. At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we listen attentively to our clients’ questions and concerns. Our goal is to help them move forward after devastating, even fatal medical errors.