How Long is Short-Term Rehab?


Short-term rehabilitation provides treatment for individuals recovering from a surgery, illness, or injury. It typically involves a combination of physical, occupational, or speech therapy. Each patient’s individual needs will determine the particular methods used.

The ultimate goal of short-term rehabilitation is to help patients achieve their maximum functional capacity and return to independent living in the shortest time possible. The length of time a patient spends in short-term rehabilitation can range from as little as a few days to as long as a few months, depending on a variety of factors, including those listed below.

The type of illness or injury

Recovery from an uncomplicated injury or surgical procedure will typically be shorter than recovery from a severe illness or more complex injury. It is important to note, however, that healing periods can last longer during short-term rehab for elderly patients. Stroke or cardiac and respiratory ailments usually require longer rehab durations, as do injuries such as hip fractures, knee replacements, and spinal cord injuries. In general, if personalized short-term rehab goals are not achieved within 12 weeks or so, the patient might need to transition into long-term rehabilitation.

The severity of a patient’s illness or injury

As mentioned above, severe illnesses and injuries require more time in short-term rehabilitation. Severity is usually measured by how many body parts or systems are affected and how soon the patient can move affected areas after hospitalization. For instance, if a patient can move a fractured limb on command at the start of short-term rehab, the length of treatment may be short. But if there is no initial ability to move the limb, additional time will be required to reach maximum independence.

The patient’s individual goals

A patient-centered approach to short-term rehabilitation means treatment plans are customized to each patient and include input from the patient’s doctor, therapists, care providers, and family members, if desired. Once goals have been established, the rehab team will work together to help the patient achieve those goals and meet regularly to review progress. Individual goals can range from simple transitions between the bed and a chair or toilet, to more advanced tasks such as buttoning up a shirt or climbing/descending stairs safely with minimal assistance.

Short-term rehab vs. long-term rehab

Short-term rehabilitation is often a beneficial solution for patients unable to perform daily tasks such as eating, bathing, and dressing during the healing period after a sudden illness, injury, or surgery. In certain cases, however, patients might still have trouble with daily tasks due to the severity of their condition, or suffer from underlying medical conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, that complicate recovery. In these cases, long-term rehabilitation at a skilled nursing facility might be required, especially if there are concerns about the patient’s safety in living independently.

Short-term rehabilitation at Bella Vista Health Center

At Bella Vista Health Center, the goal of our short-term rehab program is to help each patient achieve optimal physical, cognitive, and emotional health during the transition between hospital and home. We understand that such transitions can be challenging, and we’re committed to providing a pleasant, nurturing environment that supports every patient in their recovery process. If you or a loved one is in need of short-term rehabilitation, contact us today at (619) 644-1000 for more information or a tour of our 5-Star Skilled Nursing Facility.