The transition from the acute care setting of a hospital to an in-patient short term rehab program can be a difficult one for patients. Knowing what to expect – including the differences between these two types of care – can make the experience easier and much less stressful. Perhaps the chief difference that patients should be prepared for is a change in the focus of care from simple healing and recovery to rehabilitation. Healing and recovery, of course, remains important in short term rehab, but the primary goal is to help patients regain strength and function lost to surgery, injury or illness as quickly as possible.
The Change from Hospital to Short Term Rehab
During a hospital stay medical professionals are largely in charge since the emphasis is on medical care, while your main responsibility is rest and recovery. Short term rehabilitation, on the other hand, will place a lot more responsibility on you. While medical supervision and care is certainly an important part of what short term rehab programs do, the main focus of these programs is getting you back in shape and back to a healthy, active lifestyle as quickly as possible, and those goals will require a lot more participation from you as compared to the typical hospital stay.
When you arrive at your chosen rehab facility, you can expect to collaborate with a team of rehabilitation specialists – including physicians, rehabilitation nursing staff, a variety of therapists and counselors, and a case manager – to formulate a treatment plan specifically tailored to your individual rehabilitation needs. For instance, if you have had joint replacement surgery, your plan will focus on goals like educating you about living with your new joint and strengthening the muscles that support and control it in order to restore joint function and range of motion, reduce pain, and help you regain your best level of mobility. If you need post-op rehab for a surgery related to heart disease, stroke, or diabetes, your rehabilitation plan may include components such as speech therapy, cognitive therapy, and nutritional counseling, in addition to physical and occupational therapy.
Once your treatment plan and rehabilitation goals have been agreed upon, you can expect to work with your rehabilitation team to meet those goals. Rehabilitation plans are typically quite intensive. Patients generally undergo at least three hours of therapy daily during their stay, and will have access to equipment and facilities to follow through on prescribed therapies and exercise outside those structured session times. To achieve optimal results from rehabilitative care, you'll need to be very motivated and dedicated to making steady progress towards the goals set out in your treatment plan, taking full advantage of the help and guidance offered by your rehabilitation team as well as the resources made available for your independent use.
The point is, short term rehab programs have an entirely different atmosphere than acute care hospitals. In short term rehab, you will be in the driver's seat in terms of managing your recovery – with the assistance of your rehabilitative specialists, of course – rather than just along for the ride, as can be the case in acute care. Being mentally prepared for that transition from rest and recovery to a new focus on getting yourself up, moving, back in shape, and back to your life can help you make the most of your short term rehab experience.