Female physical therapist working with senior man final

For patients who have suffered from an injury or illness, the recovery journey can be challenging, so it is important for patients to choose their medical care with care. If you or a loved one need support on your own recovery journey, your doctor may recommend rehabilitative treatment in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital (or IRH) or a skilled nursing facility (or SNF).

In rehabilitation, an interdisciplinary team of providers work together to treat many different illness and injuries. These providers generally work with patients who have first been treated in a traditional hospital or emergency department. Rehabilitation physicians, nurses, and therapists may treat patients recovering from injuries or trauma (including burns, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries), severe infections, major surgery, stroke, or side effects from other medical treatments. In many rehabilitation facilities, doctors, nurses, and/or hospital staff provide these patients with 24-hour-per-day care.

For patients in rehab, recovery begins with therapy. In your rehab facility, your therapy team will provide you with a targeted treatment plan to restore you to optimal health and independence. That plan may include occupational, physical, and/or speech therapy.

Occupational Therapy

If your doctor has recommended occupational therapy as part of your treatment, you will work with an occupational therapist to relearn how to complete day-to-day tasks. Patients in occupational therapy (or OT) may learn and perform exercises that include tearing paper into strips, putting puzzles together, and using tweezers to pick up small objects. Other patients will re-learn to perform daily activities, such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth. Still other patients may learn how to use assistive technology, such as a calendar reminder system or a wheelchair, to address cognitive or mobility limitations. As you complete these and other exercises with your occupational therapist, you’ll likely find yourself feeling not only more independent, but more confident.

Physical Therapy

In physical therapy (or PT), patients work with therapists to improve their mobility and learn to manage pain they may be experiencing. Many of these patients may also work to improve their coordination and balance in order to prevent other injuries. Physical therapy exercises may include flexing and stretching, strength training, and joint stabilization. By helping patients to improve their mobility, your physical therapists will get you back into the activities you love most.

Speech Therapy

In speech therapy, speech-language pathologists (or SLPS) work with patients to treat language disorders, retrain patients in swallowing and feeding, and improve their communication. Patients may work to strengthen their tongues, match and identify objects, and practice thinking of words. SLPs may ask patients to name as many items in a category as they can—for example, countries or breakfast foods—to help them relearn how to recall words. After all, language can be a powerful tool for patients adjusting to a major lifestyle change such as rehabilitative recovery. By working with an SLP to improve your speech, you will be better able to speak about your recovery challenges and successes.

Choosing a Rehab Facility

While many rehabilitation facilities help patients improve mobility, cognition, and speech, not all rehabilitation centers provide them the same quality of service. Studies have shown that patients who choose to recover in inpatient rehabilitation hospitals (IRHs), for example, have better outcomes, fewer readmissions, and less difficulty returning to their communities. Because therapy in IRHs is often targeted and intensive, these patients are also able to return to their communities more often than patients at comparable care centers, such as skilled nursing facilities. Whether you choose to recover in an IRH or SNF, however, many studies show that exceptional patient care is built on comprehensive, individualized treatment and innovative technology and therapies.

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