Caregiving

If you or your loved one has been hospitalized and then sent to rehab, you may be wondering exactly what that means. Rehab care, or skilled rehabilitation care, means medical care and therapy, for a limited time, with the intention of regaining the patient’s movement and function. It’s ordered for patients who have been discharged from the hospital, but haven’t recovered enough to go home.

The therapy provided helps the patient recover the skills and independence they had before the illness or injury. Rehab care can be provided in a specialized facility, as outpatient therapy, or as in-home care. Different medical events require different recovery times and different types of rehab. For minor surgeries, for example, a patient may only need a few weeks of rehab care, but more serious medical events, like strokes or heart problems, may require several months of rehab.

What Is the Goal of Rehab Care?

Doctors order rehab for patients after they are hospitalized for strokes, heart attacks, surgery, hip or knee fractures, or other traumatic injuries. This care helps people transition from hospital care back to living at the level of independence they had before the hospitalization. Another goal of rehab is to avoid rehospitalization. The therapy provided in rehab care is intended to strengthen the body; it helps the body relearn how to perform everyday tasks safely.

Who Provides Rehab Care?

Rehab care is provided by licensed therapists. Most care is developed and administered by a combination of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and psychologists. Medical care at an inpatient rehab facility or skilled nursing facility is also provided by nurses and overseen by doctors.

What Types of Therapy Are Included?

Depending on what kind of medical event the patient is recovering from, there are several different types of therapy included in rehab. Physical therapy helps the patient regain mobility, balance, flexibility, and strength. Exercises to manage pain are also included in physical therapy. Occupational therapy means working to regain the ability to perform everyday tasks; this includes getting dressed, preparing food, bathing, and using the toilet. These tasks are usually referred to as activities of daily living, or ADLs. This type of therapy may seem more like exercise and “workouts” than the type of medical care you may be used to. Physical and occupational therapy require participation and hard work from the patient. But patients that put in the work are the ones that are most likely to regain strength, skills, and independence.

If needed, speech therapy is also included in rehab care. Speech therapy helps with conditions that affect communication, swallowing, or cognitive conditions and memory problems. Some care includes psychological counseling; this helps the patient and their family adjust to any major life changes caused by the medical event.  

Where Is Rehab Care Provided?

There are many ways to take advantage of this care. If intensive rehab services are needed, the recovery can take place in an inpatient rehab facility, or IRF. An IRF is specialized facility that provides the services and therapy the patient needs. It also offers round-the-clock medical monitoring, meals, medication, and other hospital services. Skilled nursing facilities also provide this type of care. As well as providing long-term care for older people with specialized medical needs, many of these facilities include rehab units. These provide short-term care and housing for patients who need it. Some assisted living facilities also offer rehab care, with some communities providing physical and occupational therapy rooms.

Outpatient rehab is another option. If a doctor doesn’t order inpatient care, and the patient is well enough, they can live at home and go to a rehab center to complete their rehab therapy. In-home care is another option. If rehab care is only needed a few days a week, many therapies can be performed at home, under the care of therapists and home health care workers.