Doctor discussing post-acute care to patient in the office

What Is the State of Post-Acute Care?

If you’ve ever broken a bone, torn a ligament, or suffered another type of injury, you probably had to visit the hospital and get care for it. But after the treatment period when it seems like your injury has healed, it may feel like physicians just send you home right away and never speak to you again.


In order to ensure that the healing process is going smoothly, you probably required post-acute care to enhance your recovery. And if you’re a caretaker for an elderly individual, this is probably something that you’ll need to work with often.


So what is post-acute care? How can it benefit your loved one, and what exactly does it entail? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Post-Acute Care?

Post-acute care refers to the range of services and procedures that are aimed at supporting recovery from an injury or illness. Additionally, these services are used to aid in the management of chronic illness and disability.


Acute care is an active treatment for short-term needs. 


For example, if you break your arm, putting it into a cast or performing surgery are examples of acute care methods. However, you’ll need to regain the strength and mobility in that arm after the healing process. This is where post-acute care comes in — i.e. “post” as in after and “acute” as in short-term, it’s the care that comes after your short-term care.


Post-acute care can occur either at home or in a specialized facility. In fact, there are facilities that exist purely to help provide post-acute care. 


It’s just as essential as the actual surgery or treatment that you or a loved one might receive for the initial injury. It’s a growing service that accounts for more than $2.7 trillion spent on personal health care.

Who Benefits from Post-Acute Care?

Post-acute care may be recommended by a doctor or physician for a number of different reasons. 


Here are some common circumstances where transitional care may be necessary:

  • Wound care
  • Burn recovery
  • Hip fracture or replacement recovery
  • Broken bone recovery
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Post-stroke recovery
  • Amputation care
  • Fall management, recovery, and prevention
  • Arthritis care
  • Mental health care

As you can see, the scope of post-acute care is far-reaching. That’s because there are a number of different services provided in a post-acute setting to bring your loved one relief.

Services Provided in Post-Acute Care

Post-acute care can encompass a wide range of services and exercises that can accelerate the recovery process. Not to mention, post-acute care can help provide your loved one with ideas and skills that they can practice every day in order to prevent further injury.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a post-acute care service that is often prescribed after recovering from an acute injury of the bones, joints, ligaments, or muscles. It’s also often used for managing the pain and discomfort of chronic conditions, such as arthritis.


The main focus of physical therapy is to provide an individual with exercises that help them to regain strength and mobility. This is an essential component of the healing process that can reduce pain and enhance overall quality of life.


Physical therapists can also educate patients about ways to avoid falls or create a safer space in their homes so that similar injuries no longer occur.

Occupational Therapy

Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapists are concerned with enhancing a patient’s quality of life by helping them get back to the activities that they are no longer able to do. The main difference is that occupational therapy is more focused on helping an individual find new and unique ways to address certain hurdles in their life.


Occupational therapists can help your senior family member perform activities of daily living in an effective, safe, and pain-free manner. OTs focus on helping people be independent with as few restrictions as possible.

Skilled Nursing

A physician may feel that your loved one requires some more intensive care in order to help them find comfort for their physical or mental injuries. For that reason, they may recommend skilled nursing services.


Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are long-term facilities that are provided under the supervision of licensed health professionals. It’s often imperative for managing injuries or monitoring your loved one for an extended period of time while they heal or recover.


Skilled nursing can also be offered at home. Your loved one may be able to remain in the comfort of their own home while still receiving regular visits from a skilled nurse. 


Skilled nurses can provide your family member with care that you might not be trained or well equipped to do, such as wound care, intravenous therapy and injections, catheter care, or even helping with physical therapy.

Behavioral Health

A physical injury or illness can have profound effects on mental wellbeing. Especially with age, the inability to perform a number of tasks due to pain or discomfort can lead to high levels of depression, anxiety, irritability, and more.


Depression is not a normal part of aging, but post-acute behavioral health can help address some of the underlying issues that might be making your loved one appear unlike themselves. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy or combination treatments that include medication, this is a sector of post-acute care that can provide immense relief.

Respite Care

Being a caregiver can be just as exhausting as it can be rewarding. For that reason, many post-acute care facilities also offer services for you as a caregiver to help relieve stress and tension that might be associated with this difficult job.


Respite care gives you a break when you need it most, and you can have peace of mind that your loved one is still receiving high-quality care. While respite care can take place inside of an inpatient facility, many skilled nurses can also make house visits to relieve you of your duty for a period of time when you need to take care of yourself.

Why Is Post-Acute Care Important?

Often, post-acute care is an optional service after being discharged from a hospital or another institution. And while it can sometimes add on a little bit of cost to what you already paid on the initial treatment, it is often worth the investment.


Those who choose post-acute care are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital for their injury or illness. This is because the rehabilitative services offered are usually able to provide you or a loved one with the skills necessary to help stave off the factors that caused their initial admission.


The goal is for your loved one’s condition to improve. However, post-acute care can monitor them to make sure everything goes smoothly. If they have a setback that requires immediate treatment, post-acute care can intervene before the condition worsens.


Additionally, most post-acute care practices can be administered or completed from home. This eliminates time that might need to be spent in a hospital setting, allowing your loved one to rehabilitate from the comfort of a familiar environment. This can be especially helpful for those with neurodegenerative disorders like dementia, or underlying mental health conditions like anxiety.


Post-acute care also gives your loved one more time to be with doctors to receive medical attention. This can help alleviate some of their fears or anxieties about being discharged from a hospital setting, as well as supplement their recovery with continued education.


Not to mention, costs are often covered by Medicare and other insurance plans. So when applicable, these services won’t cost you an extra penny out of pocket.


All of this culminates to allow your loved one to return to society sooner in a more positive manner. It promotes their independence and can even give you peace of mind knowing that they’re less likely to return to a physician for the same problem.

Post-Acute Care vs. Long-Term Care

Post-acute care is concerned with helping people rehabilitate after an acute injury or illness. Additionally, it is meant to help those with chronic conditions regain some comfort in their lives.


While post-acute care may persist for an extended period of time, it differs from long-term care in a few ways. 


For one, post-acute care can be utilized by anyone at any age. However, long-term care is usually only associated with older adults.


Additionally, post-acute care is usually prescribed in response to an injury, and once that injury has healed and been alleviated, the care can cease. On the other hand, long-term care is more generalized and may persist for the rest of an individual’s life. Often, those with chronic conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s require inpatient long-term care as their conditions may worsen.


Long-term care facilities also differ in that most long-term facilities act as a home for their patients. Individuals in these facilities live on the premises and are cared for around the clock. For post-acute care, individuals rarely live on-site. While some people may need to spend an overnight stay in a hospital during their post-acute care treatment, most facilities are simply offices that take appointments only.

In Conclusion

Post-acute care refers to a range of services that promote rehabilitation following an acute injury or illness. It can also be used to help individuals regain comfort due to chronic illnesses, too. 


Post-acute care can help with a wide range of ailments, and common examples of post-acute care include physical and occupation therapy, skilled nursing, behavioral health, and respite care. All of these combine to promote independence and allow your family member, as well as yourself, to improve your quality of life.


For post-acute care options within long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, Lightyear Health is a name you can trust. From pain management to medical rehabilitation, we’re relentlessly committed to improving the aging process. 


Get in touch to learn how we can redefine what it means to age.




Post-acute Care | AHA

What Is Post Acute Care & Its Benefits | PACE

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do? Roles and Responsibilities | Regis College

Aging and depression | American Psychological Association

What Is Long-Term Care? | NIH

What Is Respite Care? | NIH

Subscribe to the
Lightyear Health Newsletter

We’re committed to helping patients and their loved ones. Get the latest research and advice sent directly to your inbox.