Picture your loved one is about to be discharged from the hospital. They desperately want to return to the comfort of home, but the hospital staff is recommending they go to geriatric rehab.
Torn between the two, it’s important that you, as the caregiver, understand the goals and purpose of rehabilitation prior to your loved one returning home.
Oftentimes when we think of rehabilitation, we think of mental health or substance abuse.
However, geriatric rehabilitation refers to the process of restoring function for an older adult following a health issue - such as a stroke, fall, or brain injury- or for a chronic illness.
Geriatric rehabilitation generally occurs within a rehab facility where an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals can provide tailored care to your loved ones to ensure that they have reached their highest strength before going home.
Rehab centers can sometimes feel like a hospital. They are a medical setting that can sometimes add to the patient’s stress. However, hospitals aim to treat an ailment and discharge the patient, whereas rehab hopes to restore strength and functioning.
While there may be some uncertainty about how long a patient will stay in the hospital, rehab tends to be more structured in terms of how long the stay will be. It could be anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months, depending on the amount of rehabilitation needed for your loved one to safely return home.
Rehab can also be a solution for individuals who may be discharged from the hospital before they are ready to return home.
Below are a few ways that geriatric rehab can have a positive impact on your loved one’s well-being.
Therapists at rehab can provide an assessment of your loved one’s ability to complete daily activities such as dressing and bathing, as well as their ability to manage their home.
They can determine if it is safe for the individual to return home, and if so if there are supports needed in order to have a safe return.
By staying at rehab, your loved one will have access to an interdisciplinary team including rehabilitation services such as:
This allows your loved one to have access to all the support they could need, within one setting, saving you the challenge of coordinating transportation to appointments if your loved one received outpatient care.
Without a full return to functioning, your loved one will remain at risk for future health issues or injuries that could result in hospitalization or even long-term care placement. Allowing time for rehab will help to prevent future episodes by ensuring your loved one has the strength and skills needed to safely return home with a high quality of life.
Your loved one may also have access to educational programming such as fall prevention programs to increase their autonomy in their care planning, and decrease the chance of future hospitalizations.
In most cases, staying at rehab will connect your loved one with a social worker or discharge planner to help you and your loved one determine the best plan to return home to independent living. They can assist with setting up services such as home care or a home safety assessment, as well as offering disease education and caregiver support.
Especially if your loved one is apprehensive about spending more time away from home, it’s important to find a rehab center that will provide your loved one with efficient and kind care. Even if your loved one has not had an episode resulting in requiring rehab, it can be helpful to research your options ahead of time - in case of an emergency.
Research testimonials and success stories of other caregivers and patients online, and ask trusted healthcare providers for suggestions.
In some situations, your loved one may be successful with outpatient rehabilitation. Outpatient rehabilitation includes appointments with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and any other therapy services that the health care providers may have deemed necessary.
However, to be eligible for outpatient rehabilitation, your loved one must have support at home while the therapists are not there, or be able to safely manage activities of daily living independently.
While it’s understandable for your loved one to want to quickly return home following a hospitalization, being patient and spending time at a rehabilitation center can improve the health outcomes of your loved one by increasing their chances of independent living and improving their quality of life.
If recommended by your loved one’s health care providers, strongly consider the option of inpatient geriatric rehab to help your loved one return home feeling their best.
Laurel McLaughlin has over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.
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