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Rehab Therapy for Seniors: Everything You Need to Know

Interested in knowing more about what rehabilitation services at senior living communities look like and what is offered? Read on to learn more.

If you or your loved one has had a stroke, serious illness, major injury or joint replacement surgery, before you return home, your doctor may suggest you go to a rehab facility. To help you understand how senior rehab centers work, here are the different types of rehabilitation centers and the level of care you can expect at each.

Features of inpatient senior rehab centers.

In general, senior rehabilitation centers provide three basic levels of health care, each dependent upon your state of health, specific needs, and the length of your stay. These levels include:

  • Basic Care: Includes assistance with your activities of daily living, personal care, supervision with medical needs, help walking, and other safety procedures.
  • Sub-Acute: These are comprehensive senior care services aimed at helping you with an acute illness, injury, or a flare-up of a chronic condition such as COPD or type 2 diabetes.
  • Acute Care: If you have a debilitating disease, traumatic injury, severe stroke or an intensive surgery, registered nurses work with your family members and doctor to create a multidisciplinary rehab program to promote healing.

Who needs inpatient rehab?

Inpatient rehab is typically reserved for complex rehabilitative needs where more intensive treatments from an interdisciplinary therapy team are required. Your doctor may also suggest inpatient rehabilitation services if you’re living alone or being at home by yourself isn’t safe or practical. Rehab facilities can be part of a long-term skilled nursing or assisted living community.

Health conditions that require a stay at a senior rehab center include:

  • Fracture or broken hip
  • Joint injury or replacement
  • Aneurysm
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Neurological conditions
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Brain injury
  • Tumor/cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Limited mobility
  • Frequent falls
  • Amputation
  • Swallowing issues (known as dysphagia)
  • Pneumonia

Rehab therapy types.

By staying at a rehabilitation center, you’ll have more one-on-one time with your physical therapists, and your progress will be closely monitored. That way you can focus on your physical therapy without a lot of distractions. Most rehabilitation centers focused on caring for older adults will offer a wide range of therapies, including:

  • Physical Therapy: Typically recommended after a serious injury or joint replacement, physical therapy helps speed up the recovery process by improving mobility, strength and balance. It can also help alleviate pain from chronic conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.
  • Occupational Therapy: This therapy type is vital if you’re recovering from an injury, illness or stroke. Occupational therapy enables you to participate in activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing and eating. It also has tools to help with the early stages of memory loss.
  • Speech/Language Therapy: After a stroke or traumatic brain injury, speech therapy can help teach safe techniques to decrease the risk of choking while eating and drinking. Speech therapy can also be recommended if you have difficulty communicating, hearing, swallowing or eating.

How do senior rehab centers work?

Most rehab communities feature a homelike environment. Instead of a hospital gown, you can wear your own clothes, and you may have a private room with your own personal living space. Also, there isn’t usually a set schedule. Everything happens when you’re ready.

In general, here’s how senior rehab works: Whether you’re spending a few days, weeks or months, your time will be filled with specific therapies and medical treatments tailored to help you be as independent as possible.

While the focus of your stay is rehabilitation, both your body and your mind need conditioning and stimulation. That’s why senior rehab centers also offer opportunities for activities and socializing. Although there isn’t a set time for waking, eating, etc., things typically happen in a specific order, so here’s a breakdown of an average day.

Staff make their rounds to visit residents and assist anyone who needs help with bathing, dressing, grooming and other personal care tasks before heading to breakfast. Many communities have a dietitian on staff to meet with you and talk about your meal preferences. They also work with the culinary team to help plan menu choices that accommodate special dietary needs and restrictions.

After breakfast, you’ll head to the rehabilitation gym to do your prescribed physical therapy exercises. Rehab gyms feature specialized equipment and technology that will help you recover and minimize pain. Depending on the customized plan created by you, your family, your doctor, and your physical therapist, your exercises will vary in nature and intensity. The goal of these daily sessions is to build strength, coordination and balance.

While you recuperate from your morning therapy session, you’ll have a chance to socialize with other residents during lunch. You can also eat in your room or with visiting family and friends.

Therapy sessions will continue after lunch and can include working with a speech-language pathologist to improve communication and swallowing skills or an occupational therapist focused on doing normal daily activities.

Depending on your personal situation and the level of recovery you require, you may be involved in activities such as shopping, counseling or education, or other community events. Most rehabilitation centers also have a robust activity schedule to promote socialization and mental well-being.

Dinnertime and evenings are often devoted to spending time visiting with family and relaxing. Whether you enjoy reading, puzzles or art, the staff can help customize an activity plan that will ensure you’re not only recovering physically, but you’re also mentally stimulated.

Where you do your rehabilitation matters.

If you or a loved one has an upcoming surgery or your doctor is recommending rehabilitation after you’re discharged from the hospital, now is a good time to start reviewing your rehab options. It’s also a good time to start looking into how do senior rehab centers work. To learn more about assisted living communities near you that provide rehab services, use our Where You Live Matters community finder.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.

Where You Live Matters