Post-Operative, Short-Term Rehabilitation: Discover the Options and What It Involves

If you are about to undergo major surgery such as hip or knee replacement, the recovery process will typically include some type of short-term rehabilitation program to help you regain function and mobility. This generally includes physical therapy, as well as training to use an assistive or mobility device such as a walker or wheelchair. You may choose rehabilitation at a short-term inpatient facility, outpatient rehabilitation center, or home-based therapy. Depending upon your individual needs, you may consult with a physical therapist, registered nurse, or social worker.

Your doctor or specialist may help you decide which option is best, and your therapist will devise a customized program to suit your needs. Here are the possible options for post-operative, short-term rehabilitation and what each option may involve:

Inpatient Short-Term Care

Perhaps your doctor feels you may regain your strength and improve your functionality better while being cared for at a rehabilitation center following surgery. This is often the case for seniors or those who may not be able to care for themselves following major surgery or who need special assistance during their recovery period. Following your discharge from the hospital, your stay at a rehabilitation facility may be for a few weeks or a few months, depending upon how quickly you recover.

During your stay, you may work with a physical and occupational therapist. The goal is to help you regain mobility and functionality following your operation and help you heal quickly. The therapy program may include special exercises and gentle stretching and the use of special equipment, such as treadmills or other machines to help strengthen limbs or joints. Your therapist may also teach you how to properly use an assistive device, such as a walker or cane. Fall prevention training may be another aspect of the program, as well.

There are other services involved when staying at an inpatient rehabilitation center. You may receive care from a registered nurse, who may take your daily vital signs and administer medications as you recover. Perhaps you will also be visited by a social worker who may assist you in obtaining services such as Medicaid or counseling and support groups.

Outpatient Physical Rehabilitation on a Short-Term Basis

This may be a good option if you are somewhat mobile and able to travel to and from the rehabilitation facility on a regular short-term basis. It also allows you to remain at home after your hospital discharge, yet receive rehabilitation therapy weekly or several times per week on an outpatient basis.

Your doctor may help you choose a facility that is convenient and close to home. Before beginning your post-operative therapy program, the therapist will evaluate your condition and possibly consult with your physician. A therapy program will be created for your specific needs. This may include strengthening exercises, with or without the use of equipment, and electric stimulation therapy if pain is present. 

In-Home Rehabilitation Services and Care

Home-based care is ideal for patients who require rehabilitation, yet wish to remain at home at their assisted-living facility or private residence after a post-operative hospital discharge. If you find it difficult to go back and forth to a rehab center, this option might be worth considering. Keep in mind that you will not gain access to much of the specialized heavy equipment utilized at a rehab facility. You may be limited to therapy equipment you have at home or lightweight equipment that can be brought to your home by your therapist.

With in-home therapy, you can expect your physiotherapist to visit you for weekly sessions, or perhaps a few times per week. He or she can evaluate your needs by seeing how you get along at home. If the need exists, a registered nurse or health care provider may accompany the therapist for providing assistance with bathing, personal care, or administration of medications.

It is best to think about your recovery and rehabilitation requirements prior to your surgery. If you are still undecided about which short-term rehabilitation option is right for you, consult with your physician. He or she knows your medical history and needs and will be able to offer advice on which program might work best for you.