When most people hear they need “rehabilitation” it is common tendency to think “physical therapy” but in reality it is much more. Rehabilitation is a wide variety of medical, psychological and physiological services to help one restore good health, function, strength, mobility and cognitive ability and usefulness in society.
Rehabilitation services are typically ordered by a doctor to help a patient recover from an illness or injury. Nurses, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, social workers or case managers, and other health care professionals provide these services.
Rehabilitation is critical to the healing process and often serves as an extension of a greater health care plan. For patients well enough to be discharged from the hospital, but are not yet ready to return home, inpatient rehabilitative care offers a safe and supportive transition.
Your rehabilitation team is comprised of experts that work together to devise, implement and monitor therapy plans tailored to the specific needs of each patient. This multidisciplinary approach fosters active participation and helps ensure the highest level of physical, emotional and psychological support so patients can successfully advance through the rehab process.
Another important part of the team and rehabilitation process is having a strong support network. Most healthcare professionals agree this is crucial to maintaining results achieved through a formal rehabilitation program. As such, your family and caregivers will likely be invited to join the rehab team. The support and assistance they can provide during the rehab process and after discharge from the rehabilitation facility can help ensure long-term success.
Common Rehabilitation Therapies
- Audiology assessments providing a comprehensive evaluation of hearing disorders. Clinical audiologists use state-of-the-art medical equipment to assess outer, middle and inner ear problems. Hearing aid selection and fitting services are provided with an emphasis on maximum improvement of communication skills.
- Hand Therapy is a comprehensive rehabilitation program designed to restore and/or maximize hand function in patients who suffer from such conditions as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, crush injuries, fractures and dislocations, sprains, tendon repairs, peripheral nerve injuries, reflex sympathetic dystrophy and more.
- Cardiac Rehab helps patients who have suffered a cardiac episode or are dealing with a chronic cardiovascular condition to return to a productive, active and healthy lifestyle through education, exercise and conditioning.
- Occupational Therapy improve a patient’s functional daily living skills including dressing, grooming and eating, as well as to improve motor, cognitive and social skills. Occupational therapists also specialize in increasing strength and movement of the hands and upper extremities. They help patients relearn functional tasks in different ways and instruct them in the use of adaptive equipment that may make daily tasks easier.
- Orthopedic Rehab uses a team of physical therapists, occupational therapists and certified athletic trainers specializing in orthopedic and sports injuries. Treatments may include therapeutic exercise programs to improve strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, mobility and gait training, and modalities for pain reduction and improved function. Orthopedic and sports rehab works to restore patients to their highest quality of life as quickly and safely as possible.
- Physical Therapy helps patients improve strength, flexibility and functional movement such as bed mobility, walking and balance. Physical therapists provide mobility evaluation and training, and also can instruct patients on the use of assistive devices, prosthetics and wheelchairs.
- Recreation Therapy helps patients develop self-sufficiency and independent living skills through individual therapy, exercise, nature excursions, leisure education and participation in social programs and group outings. Families are encouraged to participate in all recreation therapy planned activities.
- Speech Therapy, also referred to as speech/language pathology, uses special techniques to help patients improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills, problem-solving abilities, concentration, memory and voice quality. Certified speech therapists/pathologists also can help improve patients’ ability to safely eat and drink.
- Vestibular Rehabilitation addresses issues and challenges related to dizziness and poor balance. Though some diagnoses for dizziness and balance problems require medical and/or surgical treatment, many conditions may be improved with specialized physical therapy that uses exercise to reduce the severity of the condition while helping patients learn to adjust or compensate for the disorder.
In addition to healthcare therapies, rehabilitation can also include recreational therapy, pet therapy, and support groups, depending on the condition of the patient.
Before beginning a rehabilitation program it is important for patients and their caregivers to know what performance outcomes to expect and to establish realistic goals, according to a study published in Annals of Long-term Care. These questions might include:
- How much of my prior abilities will I get back?
- What steps do I need to take to make this happen?
- How long will it take?
- Where can I go to recover? Will my stay be covered under my existing benefits?
- What resources and adaptations will it take to restore function?
- What is the anticipated time frame for me to regain function?
- Are my family and friends expected to provide assistance? If so, how much assistance will be required, and for how long?
It is important for patients to know change doesn’t happen overnight. Setting realistic goals helps patients—and their caregivers—to expect slow, steady progress and to better understand the steps, skills and support needed in reaching their goals.
The ARDS Foundation has offers a list of questions on their website patients or caregivers should ask in choosing a rehabilitation facility. http://www.ardsusa.org/inpatientrehab.htm
The Glossary of Managed Care & Health Terminology, accessed online at http://www.pohly.com/terms_r.html
National Center for Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR). Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development website, part of the National Institutes of Health. Accessed at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/ncmrr/
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center website, accessed at http://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/rmd/
National Rehabilitation Hospital Field Guide. Choosing A High Quality Medical Rehabilitation Program. Available online at: http://www.naric.com/public/choosingquality.pdf
Patient and Caregiver Rehabilitation Questions. Eric M. Coleman MD, MPH, and Peter D. Fox, PhD on behalf of the HMO Care Management Workgroup, Published in the Annals of Long-term Care, Vol. 12, No. 10, Oct. 2004. Accessed online at: http://www.annalsoflongtermcare.com/article/3409?page=0,3