One of the most important decisions to be made after surviving a stroke is which rehab program to enter into. Here are five questions to keep in mind as you talk with your doctor, social worker, family members, and others about your next step. What kinds of rehabilitation do you need? How severely has your health been impacted? Do you need constant medical support? What deficits have happened due to the stroke? There’s a rehabilitation specialist for any of them.
Some common ones are: Physical Therapist, for motion, balance, and strength issues. Occupational Therapist, for problems with daily activities like bathing, eating, or writing. Speech Language Therapist, for difficulty speaking or otherwise communicating. Social Worker, to help make decisions about rehab programs, connect the stroke survivor with support services, and explain insurance issues.
Neuropsychologist, to help those who have problems with thinking, memory, and behavior changes. What does your health insurance cover? Look at your health insurance paperwork closely to see what is covered, from rehab programs to specific services. Are there restrictions on the amount or type of therapy you can receive? Health insurance can stump anyone; if you’re still confused, talk to a social worker or call your insurance company or a patient advocate. They can also give information about low-income emergency resources or aid programs. What kind of setting is best? There are a range of options available, depending on the patient’s health and how much rehab therapy the need. Here’s a few options: Acute care center set in a hospital. These offer round-the-clock monitoring of patient health.
This is the most demanding program, with several hours of rehab every day. A good choice for medically fragile patients whose heath may suddenly deteriorate. A skilled nursing facility, for patients whose health is stable but who require extensive daily care. Some have a staff of therapists. Others contract out to independent therapists depending on patient need. Therapy is typically two to three times a week. An outpatient facility, either in a doctor’s office or an outpatient center where many different rehabilitation therapists work. You travel to it two to three times a week. Home health agencies offer specific rehab options. The therapists travel to work with you in your own home, scheduled as needed. This is a good option for patients who were discharged to home and are unable to travel to a different facility. Is the facility accredited? Do they meet rehabilitation standards of excellence? Look for JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) or CARF (Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). The facility should be able to provide proof of their approval. Is the facility a good fit for you? Do they offer the treatments you need? Do they accept your insurance? Has the program been operating for at least a year? Are their location and operating hours convenient? Do they have scales and procedures to measure patient progress? Is emergency medical care available if needed? Does the program offer a support group for survivors and their families, or have information on how to find one? Are clients there happy with the rehabilitation they receive? Is the facility clean? Does the staff seem overworked and disorganized, or on top of their caseload? Finding a rebilitation program can be a daunting task, but in the right setting a lot of recovery is possible. Don’t forget to reach out to your medical team for any advice you need!