Supporting Your Loved One While in Rehab
One of the most common situations our caregivers face is caring for a family member who has fallen and broken a hip. This almost always results in surgery, followed by a trip to ‘rehab’.
So, what does the term ‘rehab’ even mean? Below we describe rehabilitation and how caregivers can help.
Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals provide intense, multidisciplinary therapy to patients with a functional loss. To qualify for this level of care, patients must be able to tolerate a minimum of 3 hours of therapy per day, 5 to 7 days a week.
Some hospitals operate an inpatient rehabilitation program within the hospital, so your loved one might just move from one floor of the hospital to another when they transfer to rehab. Also, many traditional nursing homes have an inpatient rehab unit. And finally, there are also free-standing rehabilitation hospitals.
The focus of rehab is therapies: physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy if needed. Depending on the level of functioning of the patient, physical therapy may begin with just helping the person sit up in bed or get in and out of the bed. Then it will usually progress fairly quickly to standing and walking a few steps with a walker. Occupational therapy focuses on the upper half of the body, and often focuses on dressing, and other common activities of daily living. Speech therapy, if indicated, will focus on eating, swallowing, and talking.
So, while this person is busy doing therapy, what are you supposed to do? Here’s a few suggestions that can help navigate the system from the caregiver’s point of view:
Pack an Overnight Bag for your Loved One
You should include comfortable, relaxed, easy-to-put-on clothes, toiletries, phone/tablet with chargers, and books/puzzles for down time.
Don’t Spend all day at the Facility
While your loved ones is in rehab, use this time to get other things accomplished – you will likely have less time once your loved one gets home.
Ask when the Treatment Team Meets
You should be included in the Treatment Team meeting for your loved one, where they will discuss progress, goals, and discharge planning. Ask what the discharge criteria are (how they will know when the patient is ready to go home) and ask for an estimated discharge date.
Don’t Expect Your Loved One to Tell You What Happened that Day
They are likely to be exhausted and are often confused about who the personnel are and what therapies actually took place, and that’s okay. Don’t be alarmed.
Do as Little as Possible for Them While You’re There
It’s hard to watch your loved one struggle but letting them attempt activities independently is part of the process. It’s tempting to jump up and help when they need something but if it’s something they can do for themselves, let them do it. If they’re eating meals in their room, consider joining them for dinner (or bringing in a favorite treat) – if they’ll go to the dining room.
Start Planning for Their Return Home Right Away
Assuming that your loved one is coming back home after rehab, start thinking about what that is going to involve, including: transportation home, getting from the car into the house, and what room they will be staying at home while they recuperate, whether they will be able to stay by themselves. Most likely your loved one will get therapies at home for a short time after discharge, but this will only be a few hours, a few times a week. If your loved one is going to need more help than that, you will likely have to pay out of pocket for that and need to start planning and budgeting for it as soon as possible.
Facilities are supposed to keep you in the loop about things but that often doesn’t happen. Don’t take it personally, just ask whenever you get the chance. Often the direct-care staff (nurse aides usually) know the most about what is happening on a day-to-day basis. They are likely to have spent more time with your loved one that any of the nurses or doctors. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the information you need, ask to speak to the social worker.
And finally, if you need more support – reach out to your Care Coach – that’s the whole reason they are there. You can get answers to your specific questions about your specific situation. No two families are exactly alike, and no one should have to go through it alone! Learn more about Cariloop Care Coaches and our membership here.
By Julie Coats, LBSW, JD, CCM
If you are caring for a loved one and need some assistance and guidance, a Cariloop Care Coach would love to walk you and your family through whatever you may be dealing with. Become a member or call 1-844-790-5667 to get started.
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