Guide to Choosing an Acute Rehabilitation Program

Rehabilitation is the process of restoring a person’s ability to live and work as normally as possible after a disabling injury or illness. The goal is to help a person achieve his or her greatest possible physical and psychological fitness in order to lead an independent life.

When choosing a rehabilitation program, it’s important to take time to observe, compare, and ask questions. Only then can you be sure that you have chosen the best program to meet your needs or the needs of a loved one. Three key areas to look at when choosing a rehabilitation program:

  • The facility that offers the program
  • The rehabilitation program itself
  • The professional staff who administer the program

Start With a Tour
Most facilities have staff members who can show you around and answer your questions. Simply call and ask for an appointment.

Specialized Rehabilitation Hospitals
Some hospitals offer rehabilitation programs or units that may meet the needs of some people. However, these services may not meet the comprehensive rehabilitation needs of other people. Recognizing that no one facility can be all things to all people, you should look for a hospital that specializes in physical rehabilitation:

  • A hospital that devotes all or most of its resources to providing an effective, comprehensive rehabilitation program.
  • A hospital with a proven track record of successfully providing these services for many years.

Rehabilitation hospitals and some acute care hospitals with rehabilitation units hold a special accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). This means that the facility meets or exceeds nationally established standards for high quality. While this accreditation is not required (participation is voluntary), identifying facilities with this accreditation helps you to locate quality providers. You also should pay attention to the length of time that the facility has had the accreditation. A long-standing CARF accreditation indicates a high-quality rehabilitation program.

Accreditation for individual programs offered by a facility indicates an exceptional rehabilitation provider.

Environment plays an important role in help people to maintain a positive attitude during rehabilitation.

  • Surroundings should be warm and inviting.
  • Patients should be dressed in their everyday clothes.
  • Staff should appear friendly and helpful.
  • There should be a general feeling of activity and purpose in the area.

All aspects of patient needs should be addressed—social and recreational areas, patient dining room, easy access to treatment areas, accessible bathrooms and sleeping rooms, and modified or adapted equipment to encourage independence.

The Rehabilitation Program

Comprehensive Services
A comprehensive rehabilitation program must offer coordinated services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language pathology, rehabilitation nursing, recreation therapy, psychology, social services, vocational counseling, community re-entry support, respiratory therapy, nutrition counseling, patient and family support groups, and drive education.

Team Approach
Services should be individualized for each patient and coordinated through a team of rehabilitation professionals. Team members should meet regularly under the direction of a physiatrist, a doctor who specializes in rehabilitation. The physiatrist should have access, through the hospital staff, to physicians from other medical specialties who are available for consultation when needed.

Each patient should have his or her own rehabilitation team, and the team should remain with the patient throughout the rehabilitation stay. Rehabilitation services should be offered seven days a week, including three to five hours a day on weekdays. Some weekend services also should be available.

Family Involvement
The onset of a disability affects not only the newly disabled person, but their family as well. The family plays an important role in a rehabilitation program. You should look for a rehabilitation program that includes and encourages family participation at a variety of levels. Families should be considered members of the rehabilitation team; their needs and opinions should be sought. Families should be invited to attend team conferences and contribute to the rehabilitation plan. Families should be allowed to observe treatment and to visit freely.

Look for a facility that offers family support groups as a regular part of the comprehensive rehabilitation program. These groups help family members to gain a greater understanding of the disability, and provide insights into adapting and coping. They also provide an opportunity for families to have contact with others who are experiencing similar problems.

Discharge to Home
The goal of a comprehensive physical rehabilitation program is to help a person achieve a maximum level of independence. One measure of the achievement of this goal is the person’s ability to return home after rehabilitation. A successful rehabilitation program will result in individuals who improve their ability to care for themselves, with a majority of them returning home after discharge.

Professional Staff

Education and Experience
The education and experience of staff members contribute greatly to the overall success of a comprehensive rehabilitation program. So, too, is the ability of the facility to provide continuity of staff throughout the rehabilitation stay.

It is preferable for professional staff to be employed by the hospital. This gives the hospital greater control over the quality and consistency of care, and contributes to more meaningful communication with the patient and family.

Dedicated staff—with a permanent assignment to the rehabilitation hospital or unit—are preferable to staff who rotate from unit to unit. Dedicated staff ensures a higher level of knowledge and expertise in rehabilitation.

About Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute
Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute is dedicated exclusively to providing comprehensive inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitation services. Sacred Heart provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for head injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, orthopedic conditions, burns, and neuromuscular disorders. We also offer a coma recovery program.

We have been licensed as a physical rehabilitation hospital since 1965, and we hold accreditations from:

  • The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO)
  • The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

We also hold individual accreditation from CARF for our head injury inpatient and outpatient programs. We offer the following as a check sheet for your use when gathering information on various rehabilitation facilities:

Rehabilitation Checklist

  1. Is the rehabilitation program headed by a physiatrist? ‚ __ Yes ‚__ No
  2. Which rehabilitation services are offered?
    -Physical therapy
    -Speech/language pathology
    -Recreation therapy
    -Vocational counseling
    -Community re-entry
    -Support groups
    -Occupational therapy
    -Rehabilitation Nursing
    -Social services
    -Respiratory Therapy
    -Driver Education
  3. Does the facility use an interdisciplinary team approach? ‚__Yes __ No
  4. Is the facility or unit warm and inviting? __ Yes ‚__ No
  5. Are families encouraged to attend and contribute to team conferences? ‚ __Yes ‚__ No
  6. Are the results of team conferences shared with families who are unable to attend? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  7. Does the team meet at least weekly? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  8. Are visiting hours flexible? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  9. Does the facility offer education and/or support groups for families and patients? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  10. Does the facility specialize in physical rehabilitation? ‚ __ Yes ‚__ No
  11. Has the facility provided comprehensive physical rehabilitation programs for a number of years? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  12. Does the facility treat a substantial number of people for each disability (e.g., head injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes)? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  13. Is the facility or rehabilitation unit accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation (CARF)? ‚ __ Yes ‚__ No
  14. Are the individual programs such as head injury accredited as well? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  15. Does the facility have a reputation for successfully returning patients to their homes, work, or school? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  16. Are rehabilitation services offered in a distinct area of the facility? ‚ __Yes ‚__ No
  17. Are X-ray, lab, respiratory therapy, and pharmacy services available on the premises? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  18. Is the staff friendly and helpful? ‚__ Yes ‚__ No
  19. Is the professional staff employed by the facility? ‚ __ Yes ‚__ No


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