August 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am
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3 pieces of advice for elder’s stay in rehab facility

by Dorian Martin

Have you had a loved one who became really weak while hospitalized? If so, you may worry about the elder being discharged to come directly home, even if you have assistance for home health care. I was in this predicament in June.

Dad had been hospitalized for a week and also was trying to recover from a previous fall that caused his chronic back pain to worsen. Therefore, he was weak and very unstable. When it came time to leave the hospital, Dad wanted to come home. I wasn’t so sure and started asking the health care professionals about a rehabilitation facility, and they concurred that it was a good option. I was able to offer their advice to sway Dad’s thinking, as I described in another blog post. And it turned out rehab was the better choice because Dad had access to skilled nursing staff who could handle health issues that arose as well as therapists who could help him get stronger.

3 tips for elder’s stay in rehab

So what did I learn from having Dad in a rehabilitation facility for over a month? Here’s my list:

1. If possible, get a recommendation from the elder’s doctor. I asked Dad’s doctor to weigh in on the option of a stay at a rehab facility. He said it was a good choice and mentioned one in particular. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it turns out that Dad’s doctor was affiliated with that facility. That relationship proved helpful since we didn’t have to worry about miscommunications or disagreements about Dad’s treatment plan among several physicians. Even if your elder’s doctor isn’t the attending physician, she probably knows the doctors at the various rehab facilities and the ones with whom she works best.

2. You need to become an advocate for your loved one. Dad was antsy, especially when he first admitted. I made sure I visited on a daily basis to ease his tension. In addition, I went at different times to meet the staff on the various shifts. I was able to bridge any different ideas about what Dad wanted and what the staff needed him to do.

3. Set an expectation that you want to hear what’s going on with your loved one. I gave my cell phone number to the nursing staff, therapists and social worker and encouraged them to call me if they needed me. That way, I received regular reports about the good (Dad’s progress), the bad (a pressure sore) and the ugly (two incidents of an impacted bowel).

Taking an active role

Last week’s blog showed how important it is to connect with the staff providing care for elders. One of Dad’s physical therapists told me that many adult children do not take an active role when an elder is in a rehab facility. However, your presence could alert the nursing staff that you expect stellar care and you can also be a visible cheerleader as your loved one makes progress in recuperating.

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