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Supporting an aging loved one during short-term rehab

I took a 95-year-old relative for minor surgery recently and, afterward, she complained just a little about having had to put up with the inconvenience of the procedure.
 
As several family members have chuckled on occasion, our relative is quite fortunate overall. While she had to care for her husband as he faced health issues for a number of years, she’s had relatively few significant health issues herself.
 
And she still lives alone—and drives! Undoubtedly, most of us hope for that future.
 
Unfortunately, as we age, the likelihood increases that we may face varying issues including chronic health conditions or other diseases, surgeries or falls. Often, those situations can be improved with short-term rehabilitation.
 
Short-term rehab encompasses physical, occupational and speech therapies that can help people reach their individual potential and, quite frequently, return to the lives they love.
 
The care team at a short-term rehabilitation center creates a personalized plan that can help older adults regain strength, manage medical conditions and transition back home. In addition to offering care around-the-clock, these centers also typically offer education and resources for both seniors and their families.
 
Many short-term rehabilitation centers, such as those operated by Diakon Senior Living Services, offer private and semi-private suites, therapy gyms and personalized instruction, nutritious dining designed to enhance health, and space for socializing. The goal is an overall positive experience that helps patients thrive.
 
If my relative required short-term rehab, it’s likely she would say she did not need it. She would not be alone in that self-assessment. Many older adults tend to decline short-term rehabilitation after being released from the hospital. Often, this is because they’d rather go home and don’t see the value in rehabilitation, according to Aging Care.
 
You can help them to understand their stay is only temporary—and it can lead to their remaining healthier longer. In fact, if they return home too soon and aren’t yet healed properly, they can be setting themselves up for a longer stay in rehabilitation later on.
 
To make this process easier on your loved one, there are a few things you can do:

•         Visit short-term rehabilitation communities with your loved one
 

Choosing a rehabilitation community can be overwhelming. Make it easier on your loved one by doing the work for them. Find a few with the services your loved one needs, the amenities he or she will enjoy and the care and support the person deserves.
 
Let your loved one choose the place that looks most interesting. If possible, take a tour of the community. If that’s not possible, consider video-chatting while on a tour so your loved one can develop an idea of what the community will be like.
 
•         Visit regularly or check in
 
Many older adults’ reluctance for additional care may come from fear of distance. Choose a day to visit or have a meal with them. Schedule a time to call them each night. These seemingly small gestures can provide confidence and support, helping to ensure a smooth recovery.
 
•         Be part of the care team
 
Check in with the care team regularly to learn about a loved one’s progress and find ways to help. Whether this includes learning some exercises or helping the team find a way to inspire your loved one, your input and support can make a big difference.
 
•         Find the support you need

If your loved one still has trouble understanding the value of short-term care or would like to learn more, contact any Diakon Senior Living community. The staff members there will be happy to discuss options, help you assess the applicability of the community to your loved one and will offer guidance to make the transition to short-term care and then home as easy as possible.

William Swanger, MA, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Vice President for Communications, Diakon