Choose the Rehab Facility That Knows How to Get Your Family Member Going

By Denise Brown. Careconversations.org

My mom has three new hips (one hip had to be replaced twice) and two new knees. After each surgery to get her new parts, she recovered at a long-term care facility. Her rehab stays ensured she returned home able to maneuver the house’s landscape (which includes lots of steps) and able to manage her activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing and bathing.

Before going to the hospital for her surgeries, my mom and dad toured local rehab facilities to find the one she liked best. After her first surgery, she chose a rehab center which happened to have a small therapy room. She came to regret that decision so, before her next surgery, she and my dad toured local facilities again. This time, she chose a facility with a large therapy room. This decision turned out to be the best one for her. She loved the therapists, who worked with her to meet her goal of returning home two weeks after her surgery. She attended therapy twice a day, working on regaining her strength and literally getting back up on her feet.

When you search for a rehab facility for your parent who’s recovering from a surgery, like a hip replacement, or a medical condition, like a stroke, look for a facility with staff experienced in helping individuals like your family member.

The rehab staff working with your family member will include the following. You can learn more about kinds of therapy here:

  • A Physical Therapist: The PT helps individuals regain their strength as well as increase their balance and coordination. A therapist will use range of motion exercises to keep muscles and joints stay in the best shape possible. In addition, a physical therapist can work with individuals to manage their pain from arthritis and other chronic illnesses. Many times, the therapist can create a plan of care that helps a resident not only with balance and coordination but also control their pain.
  • An Occupational Therapist: The OT helps individuals with their activities of daily living, which can include dressing, bathing, cooking and getting in and out of a car. After a surgery, an OT helps individuals learn how to make adjustments and modifications so they can take care of themselves safely, including with the help of equipment and adaptive devices. After a decline, the OT works with the individual to help accommodate for the change in functional level. In essence, an OT assists individuals so they safely perform the tasks required of them during their day.
  • A Speech Therapist: A speech therapist helps individuals with speech, voice, and language disorders. If your family member has communication or swallowing difficulties, then a speech therapist will create a treatment plan to help.
  • A Physical Therapy Assistant or Aid: Under the guidance of the physical therapist, the PTA helps individuals with their ambulation and exercises.

As your family receives treatment from the therapists, consider taking part in the therapy sessions. You can watch how the therapists interact with your family member, the exercises they use and how well your family member responds. In addition, the therapists can demonstrate how to safely help your family member once he or she returns home. You’ll want to know how to transfer your family member safely, for instance, from a wheelchair to a commode. You’ll also want to understand how to use equipment so you can demonstrate to your family member if needed.

The therapists become an important part of your family member’s care team—as important as the nurses and certified nursing assistants. When you know the therapists and understand the treatment plans, you can help your family member return home on time.