Case Management, Guardianship Support, Life Care Plan

Finding The Right Rehab Is Key When Living With Paralysis

 May 11, 2016

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

Shorten the word ‘rehabilitation’ to ‘rehab’ and you immediately arrive at the usual connotations; you think of addicts or alcoholics. That isn’t inaccurate, but it is not the full picture either. The Latin root word habitare means “make fit” and the prefix re- means “again”. So the essential meaning of the word ‘rehabilitate’ is “to make fit again”. That’s all. Now we can add suggestions of exercise and overall physical repair can’t we? One cannot truly find what one is looking for without a clear and accurate sense of the term itself.

Living with paralysis can be a great battle, if not the greatest battle one has ever faced. It will require a great weapon and even greater allies. Both can be found within a rehabilitation center. The ‘weapon’ is the program or facility itself. It is the means with which you will fight your battle. Your allies are the professionals who will be assisting you, the team that will fight alongside you.

Choose Your Weapon

You must do your homework if you want to ensure the best of both before selecting a rehabilitation center. Here are some important questions you should ask:

  • Does the facility have experience with the particular diagnosis or condition? First and foremost, you must realize that while most centers treat a variety of conditions, they are not all the same. Be sure that your exact diagnosis is recognized and treated by the facility you are checking out. Find out how many patients they see a year with your condition.
  • Is the facility a good match for you? Start logistically. How far will you have to travel? Are you OK with this? Does the facility regularly treat people your age? What is the staff to patient ratio? In other words, be sure that you will get the attention you deserve.
  • Is the facility accredited? Like any medical facility, rehab centers belong to professional organizations that hold members to certain standards. You may want to review what accreditation a particular center has received, especially if it is in the area in which you need treatment. A good place to start inquiring about accreditation would be Spinal Cord Injury Model System Centers, funded by The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living  and Rehabilitation Research. Another would be CARF, or The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.   


Know Your Team

Depending on the results of choosing a center, the assembly of skill and talent you are about to encounter will bear some getting to know on a personal level. After all, you will be spending a great deal of time on a most urgent quest. Knowing the men and women who will be on your team will also help a great deal when it comes to understanding each step of the process you are about to embark on.

  • Physiatrist No, we did not misspell ‘psychiatrist’. Don’t feel bad if you thought that.  Physiatry is a fairly unknown specialty and as it turns out, a physiatrist focuses on quite the opposite of a psychiatrist’s area of expertise. Physical medicine and rehabilitation is a physiatrist’s specialty, nothing mental. This is the person that will be coordinating the long-term process you have ahead of you.
  • Rehab nurse. This person will be your shadow, attached at the hip, your right hand man or any one of a number of similar clichés.  He or she will be your link to the rest of the team. The work of this special individual is so intrinsic to the process; it begins almost immediately following your injury and may very well continue after you leave rehab. Alongside your nurse, you will meet your therapists.
  • Occupational therapist. With the aid of your rehab nurse, you will eventually be ready to re-learn the daily tasks that once made up your life. For this, you can count on your occupational therapist. An OT will evaluate your home and workplace to make recommendations for your eventual return. The OT will also suggest certain equipment that may aid in your recovery.
  • Physical therapist. By the time you require a PT, you are practically ready for exercise. The exercise will still be focused on your areas of recovery. However, while your rehab nurse and OT will have focused on inserting you back into your life, the PT will build your strength, endurance and coordination. This is so you can sustain the added stress of returning to a routine and not regress.

So much may have changed depending on the severity and duration of your injury and rehabilitation. There are still more professionals employed by top-notch rehab centers, professionals that will specialize in the more common questions that may arise. Your future employment, for example, may be a matter for a vocational therapist. There is no doubt that all of the stress may have taken a toll, in which case you may not warrant a psychiatrist, but a psychologist may very well come in handy. Intimacy with others, whether it be familiar family functioning or sexual relations with a partner, might take more getting used to than anticipated; there are even counselors for that. Depending on your own personal support network, the prospect of navigating this odyssey can be quite daunting. The medical experts at AdvancedRM can be your guide, providing a highly trained care manager that will be your tour guide every step of the way.

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