Rehab Therapy Minimally Affected in SNFs during Pandemic
A recent study examined post-acute rehab services provided to residents living in skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic and before the pandemic. McKnights reports the study concluded that services were comparable, but group therapy saw a fall in time spent together while time spent in individual sessions went up.
The data also indicated individuals who were admitted after a hospital stay had a higher level of cognitive impairment, a higher baseline mortality risk and were sicker.
Sarah Berry from Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, and one of the study authors stated, “So much has been made about the shortcomings of nursing homes during the pandemic, and while there are a lot of opportunities for [facilities] to improve, this shows they are getting some things right. We were surprised to see that despite the challenges and regulations, it was possible to do the group sessions and there wasn’t a drop-off in the intensity. It speaks to the strength and resilience of staff during that time.” This is a commendable achievement for all rehabilitation therapists, including our own Cornerstone Rehab clinicians.
The study included 61,000 pre-pandemic patients and 47,500 patients who were in nursing homes during the pandemic. They were all short-term residents who stayed in the facility for less than 100 days. Residents also dealt with staffing challenges during the pandemic with fewer therapists available when compared to pre-pandemic times.
On average, during the pandemic, residents received 4.86 days of physical therapy, 4.71 days of occupational therapy and 3.62 days of speech therapy. In comparison, before the pandemic, they received 5.35 days of physical therapy, 5.17 days of occupational therapy and 4.01 days of speech therapy. Group therapy time decreased from 1.01 minutes per day pre-pandemic to only 0.11 minutes during the pandemic, while one-on-one speech therapy increased from 33.76 minutes pre-pandemic to 34.51 minutes during it.
Before the pandemic, residents spent about 44.7 minutes in one-on-one occupational therapy sessions, but during the pandemic the time decreased to 43.86 minutes. For physical therapy sessions, residents received 44.83 minutes pre-pandemic and 43.7 minutes during it.
Berry concluded, “We went into this concerned that nursing home residents might not have been getting as much therapy and rehabilitation due to all the challenges of the pandemic. I would hope [this research] gives people confidence that for patients who still need nursing-home level care, it’s still an OK option.”