After a hospitalization or surgery, especially when rehabilitation is prescribed, there is often a decision to make:  should you be admitted to an inpatient rehabilitation program, or return home and receive these services as an outpatient?  In many cases, inpatient rehabilitation might not be the most convenient, but it may offer the best outcomes for the patient.

Rehabilitation – which can include physical, occupational and/or speech therapy – is an intensive treatment that can have long-lasting effects.  It can improve mobility and activities of daily living function, relieve pain, and reduce the need for surgery and medications.  Investing the time in an inpatient course of treatment can have many benefits, as it allows the patient to focus completely on his or her rehabilitation rather than be forced to fit it into the normal routine of daily life.  When there are other things to consider, such as diagnoses including kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes, an inpatient option may also provide the necessary care team to help maintain or improve overall health in addition to achieving rehabilitation goals.  The members of this care team might include:

  • Physicians specializing in rehabilitative care
  • A specially-trained nursing staff that can assist with rehabilitation goals
  • Social workers who can assist with every step, from admission to discharge planning
  • Therapeutic recreation therapists who can help patients get back to doing the things they enjoy
  • And, of course, expert physical, occupational and speech therapists whose only goal is getting patients back to living their lives to the fullest as quickly as possible

Another reason to consider inpatient rehabilitation over an outpatient option is that outpatient rehabilitation is easy to skip – the patient isn’t feeling up to it today, the weather is poor, or the person responsible for providing transportation is unable to make it.  By skipping rehabilitation, especially following a hospitalization or surgery, some of the potential consequences include:

  • Falls: After a hospital stay, a patient can be in a weakened state, making them more prone to falls that could potentially lead to re-hospitalization
  • Infections: With less activity, the risk for developing pneumonia increases
  • Reduced Endurance/strength: With less activity, patients run the risk of elevated blood pressure and heart rate and decreased oxygen saturation levels, which can lead to stroke, blood clots or heart attack.
  • Increased Pain: With less activity, joints tend to stiffen, leading to increased pain.
  • Osteoporosis: With less activity, there is increased risk of seeing a decrease in bone mass and density(osteoporosis), which can lead to fractures and falls.

As people age, they tend to lose flexibility and strength.  Rehabilitation after a hospitalization, injury or surgery may be the key to maintaining a healthy level of fitness.  Make sure you speak with your doctor to determine if inpatient rehabilitation is an option for you.

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