Following a hospital stay, it’s not uncommon to need additional care before going home. A stay in a rehabilitation facility is often recommended for patients recovering from a range of medical and surgical conditions, including joint replacement and stroke.
Whatever the reason for rehabilitation, the main goal of treatment is the same: Preparing the patient to return home and live as independently and safely as possible. Our approach is patient-centered and driven by each patient's goals. His or her impairments, prior level of function, and home and social environments all play a critical role in determining the treatment plan.
To better understand each patient’s needs and environment, we meet with family members about a week into the rehab stay. Family members are integral members of the team, which includes the patient, rehabilitation therapists, nurses, doctors and social workers.
When we devise a treatment plan, we always ask what is particular to the patient’s circumstances. How is the home environment set up? Is there family support available? Does the patient need assistive devices and or adaptive equipment in the home? Does he or she need additional help to manage day to day?
Typically we focus on helping patients reach the highest level of independence in the areas of self-care and mobility. We want to set them up with the best tools for success, and that means practicing actual daily living skills such as getting washed and dressed, walking, and preparing a light meal. Education is vital, and we spend time every day teaching our patients a range of skills useful to life post-rehab.
One critical thing therapists teach is how to prevent falls, which is necessary to help avoid further injury and re-hospitalization. We can lose balance as we age, or experience dizziness as a symptom of a medical condition or a side effect of medication. Because of these risks, home modifications and adaptive equipment are important to increase patient safety after discharge, and to help patients conserve energy and accomplish daily tasks.
Adaptive equipment is available for just about any activity you can imagine. Does the patient have a bathtub that he or she has to step over? You can place a bench over the edge so it’s easy to get in and out of the tub. Installing grab bars can be very helpful for safer bathing, and toilet modifications, which can be simple, are very effective for patient safety and independence. There’s even a tool to help make putting on socks or hose easier – I’ve been an occupational therapist for 16 years and every time I show it to someone they’re amazed!
Once the patient is ready for discharge, we arrange for home care rehabilitation services to help the patient work toward the highest level of independence in the home environment. We’ve found that many of our patients benefit from an innovative program called Therapy House Calls, which brings the advantages of the outpatient experience directly to patients in their homes.