A Typical Day in a Senior Rehab Facility

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If your parent or loved one has a surgery planned or they have been recently hospitalized, it is likely that they will be referred to an in-patient rehabilitation facility to help them recover. You may be curious about what their stay will be like and how their days will be structured. Whether they will be in the facility for a few days or a few months, each day will be filled with physical therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy and other medical treatments tailored to help them regain their ability to be as independent as possible.

While the focus of this stay is rehabilitation, which requires a great deal of determination and dedication, the services provided by a skilled nursing facility (SNF) are not limited to therapy. There is actually plenty of time for activities and socializing during these stays. When healing, both the body and the mind need conditioning and stimulation, and these facilities focus on providing both. Here is a little glimpse of what you can expect during a loved one’s time in a senior rehab center.

Morning

Each morning, the nurses will complete their rounds. They will visit patients and assist those who need help with bathing, dressing, grooming and other personal care tasks. At an in-patient facility, the staff tries to simulate a home environment as much as possible. Residents can wear their own clothes, and if they have a private room, they will have their own personal living space. Also, there isn’t usually a set waking schedule; everything happens on the patient’s own time within reason.

After breakfast, patients will head to the “gym” to do their prescribed physical therapy exercises. These gyms feature specialized equipment and technology that will help them recover and minimize pain. Depending on their needs, these exercises will vary in nature and intensity. Each patient works with a therapist on a daily basis to build skills like strength, coordination and balance in order to regain their independence.

Noon

During lunchtime, patients will recuperate from therapy and have a chance to socialize with one another while they eat. Although dining options vary from facility to facility, a variety of lunch options are usually available, and a dietitian is on staff to help plan menu choices and accommodate special dietary needs and restrictions.

Patients will have their choice of menu options, and they will also meet with the dietitian regularly to talk about their food preferences. If dining with other residents is not something they are interested in, they can always eat in their room or with family and friends who come to visit.

Afternoon

In many cases, therapy sessions will continue after lunch. Sessions can include working with a speech-language pathologist to improve communication and swallowing skills or an occupational therapist to learn how to engage in normal daily activities.

However, depending on their personal situation and the level of recovery they require, they may be involved in activities such as shopping, counseling or education, or other community activities. Most rehabilitation facilities have a robust activity and excursion schedule to promote socialization and mental wellbeing.

“Activities are posted on a large monthly activity board, to show upcoming events each day and week of the month,” says Mike Henckel, marketing director at Park Manor Rehabilitation Center in Walla Walla, Washington. “Smaller calendars are available for guest rooms. Many different options are provided throughout the month, such as bread making, sensory activities, puzzles, coloring, reading time, musical performances, church services, bingo, cards, books on tape, as well as outings into the community. Our therapists will even take guests back home to help them prepare for their return.”

Evening

Dinnertime and evenings are often devoted to spending time visiting with family and relaxing. Even though family members generally visit in the evening, most facilities welcome visitors to come during physical therapy sessions as well to help with motivation. Their bodies need to recuperate after various therapy sessions, so this time is typically low-key. Whether they enjoy reading, puzzles or art, the staff can help customize an activity plan that will ensure they are not only recovering physically, but they are also mentally stimulated and enjoying their time at the facility.

“Residents are free to move about the facility during evening hours,” Henckel says. “On various days of the week in the evenings, there are activities available for patients to engage in. We encourage family visits and welcome pet visits as well, as long as the family can show proof of recent shots etc.”

The time spent at an in-patient therapy facility following an accident or illness is crucial to recovery and reintegration to daily life. The staff will try as much as possible to preserve original routines and personalize treatments to make sure residents and their families are prepared for a safe and successful return home. Once treatments have concluded, they will have achieved their maximum functional ability and hopefully had a pleasant and fun experience as well.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook is the Executive Director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers, Marketing Director of North American Healthcare and a health/wellness columnist.

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24 Comments

My parents have been in rehabs like the one described and also like the one looking4lulu described. You have to be careful. But when you are under the gun it is hard to pick and choice.
This isn't what rehab was like for my husband. One hour tehab and one hout occupational therapy. Test of day in recliner. Towards end he even had plug pulled so he couldn't change position. He slept in recliner with feet down and came home with blood clot from ankle to hip, sepsis, fsiling kidneys and dehydrated with high white blood cell count. Now he is in ICU on ventilator on dialysis.
What described is what it should be like in tehab.
This article is what is should be like in a NH for rehab. My Mom was in 3 NH's for rehab for a broken arm, and only one sounded similar to this which was the 3rd one I found. The other two were a nightmare despite high ratings. Nurses did not communicate and in NH2 they got annoyed looks if I just walked by the desk on my way to Mom's room. . In NH1 the PT director complained that Mom did not want to do the PT and had dementia. Mom had never been diagnosed with dementia. She had a serious UTI which they did not catch. They left her lying in the bed and she developed a stage IV bedsore that was only pointed out to me by the intake nurse in the hospital later when Mom was rushed to the hospital with a raging UTI and delirium. Needless to say she did not go back to NH1. After the hospital stay I found what seemed to be a good NH. It was not what it appeared to be. This one had aides that often left residents in nightgowns all day on weekends when the director was not there, claiming the resident did not WANT to get up. I was asked by aides why Mom had so many bowel movements,(I took this as a complaint they had to clean her so often). Then an aide dropped Mom while transferring her into the wheelchair and broke her leg! This extended the rehab. There was also one nurse there who would get dramatic and yell loudly walking up and down the halls if you wanted her to do so much as put a bandage on the resident. Residents were often sitting in wheelchairs crying later into Mom's stay. I couldn't wait to take Mom home. Months later she ended up in the hospital again, and though I did not want to send her to rehab after those 2 experiences, I did so because my husband was scheduled for a heart operation. This NH 3 turned out to be so good that I couldn't believe it. It sounds like the rehab in the article. I am never believing the ratings again, or the smoke screen they put up when you go in there and walk around past the fancy lobby with chandeliers. I did go to the NHs and check them all out before. What occurs down the halls is a different story in most cases as far as my experience goes. Two out of three were a nightmare.