Rehabilitation: Become Your Loved One’s Advocate

I didn’t know much about rehabilitation until my husband was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital to rehabilitation. This department only accepts patients who need intensive physical therapy. My husband qualified for admittance and spent several weeks in rehab. Then he was transferred to the rehabilitation a local nursing home for additional rehabilitation.

During life-threatening surgery my husband had a spinal stroke and his legs can’t support his weight. Thanks to physical therapy twice a day he is regaining some feeling in his legs. Time will tell if he is able to stand or ever walk again and, according to his neurologist, the odds aren’t in his favor.

When he was in the hospital I visited him three times a day. I’ve continued this practice in the nursing home. Regular visits and conversations with healthcare team members have given me a better understanding of rehabilitation. No doubt about it, rehabilitation is a challenging place, a place of pain, goals, and working towards them.

Ever since his aorta dissected I’ve been my husband’s advocate. I’ve learned how important advocacy can be. Indeed, it can be the difference between inadequate and quality care. Maybe your loved one is in rehabilitation now and you want to help. How can you be his or her advocate? These tips worked for me and may work for you.

1. Attend care conferences. The hospital Intensive Care Unit held regular care conferences. I was invited to attend these meetings, which were held in front of my husband’s room. At the end of the conference I was encouraged to ask questions. The nursing home has monthly care conferences and additional conferences as needed. Hard as it may be, try to attend your loved one’s care conferences.

2, Prepare for conferences. Before I attend a conference I review my husband’s needs. What are his current needs? What does he need most? Usually I remember these points, but sometimes I jot them down on paper. You may do the same. Hospital and nursing home personnel will appreciate your efforts and your preparation can save time.

3. Visit often. Your presence shows your caring. Just as important, it lets others know you’re observing your loved one’s care. I visit so often I know the staff members by name and the names of all the patients. Regular visits made me aware of the need for better food safety practices. I reported unsafe practices to the nurse manager. “Oh, I hate to hear that,” she groaned. “We spend so much time on training.” She said she would review food safety with kitchen staff.

4. File medical/health documents. You need to file medical bills, insurance documents, receipts, and insurance information in a safe place. My husband has received hundreds of documents, so many that I purchased a portable file box for them. The box has a handle and I can carry it easily. You may purchase a similar box, use an empty drawer, or file cabinet.

5. Gather information. The nursing home my husband is in has a bus with a wheelchair lift. The bus transported him to and from his follow-up appointment. His hour-long appointment turned into a day of tests. Afterwards, we learned the bus driver usually goes off duty at 4:00 p.m. Fortunately, he waited for us. Ask for brochures about the hospital an/or rehabilitation facility. You don’t want to miss a bus or experience other mishaps.

Your advocacy can boost your loved one’s spirits. Advocacy is another way to show love. And your loved one will love you more for it.

Copyright 2014 by Harriet Hodgson