Asian man lifting weight in exercise room

Although skilled nursing facilities have made rehab care a revenue driver for decades, senior living operators historically have taken a less aggressive route. But that is changing. 

Increasingly, senior living operators are recognizing rehab’s potential for meeting the needs and desires of residents while also making it an important source of income.

David Tate, chief strategy officer for Reliant Rehab, says rehab is indeed becoming more associated with senior living.

“It is common for senior living operators to promote the availability of onsite therapy services,” he says. “Whether in a small skilled nursing unit, memory care unit or in a dedicated outpatient therapy gym, therapy services are increasingly available to senior living residents. For senior living communities without dedicated therapy space, an approved therapy facility may offer ‘off-premises’ services in a patient’s room. Home health is another provider commonly offering therapy services to residents of senior living communities.”

Although short-term rehab infrastructure may not yet be universal in senior living, Tate says it is more commonplace to see senior living communities with dedicated therapy gyms that occupy prominent locations and can be accessed by residents and potential residents.

“Short-term rehabilitation provides senior living residents an opportunity to receive therapy services in an ideal environment for restoring optimal functional abilities,” Tate says. “While the convenience of onsite outpatient therapy is a definite plus, the more important advantage is receiving functional rehabilitation services in the actual home environment.”

The clinical dynamic

Rockland Berg, architect and principal with the Dallas-based architectural firm three, has witnessed the acuity shift and rehab migration trend over the course of decades. 

“Today, we’re seeing operators getting more creative with licensing regulators, so that they can provide better care in less restrictive environments,” he says. “I think certain states are no longer requiring skilled nursing as part of the continuum, such as Arizona, I believe, and that will continue to change the dynamic.”

Nevertheless, senior living is a different care setting and faces an alternate process of adopting rehab.