What to Know About Rehabilitation

This article is adapted from “Planning for Inpatient Rehab Services,” one of a series of free guides available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian at www.nextstepincare.org. All are free and can be downloaded, printed, or read on a tablet or smartphone.

What is Rehab?

If you or your family member is in the hospital for an acute illness or injury or for surgery, you may be told that the next step in care is “rehab.” Rehabilitation (or simply “rehab”) is treatment to help patients regain (get back) all or some of the movement and function they lost because of the current health problem.

Patients can get rehab services at home, in a local clinic, or at an inpatient setting (either a rehab unit within a hospital, nursing home, or a separate rehab facility).

Inpatient rehab is very different from hospital care. While the patient might still be quite ill and need medical attention, he or she will be expected to be active during the rehab process. Rehab is hard work.

You will find that things are done differently in rehab than in a hospital. You will see many active patients and therapists in the halls and treatment rooms. You may find that rehab has an active, “workout” atmosphere rather than a place for sick people.

The patient will be expected to work as hard as possible during the rehab process. Family caregivers (such as spouses, partners, children, etc.) will have many responsibilities. For example, they will be expected to provide loose, comfortable clothing for the patient to make it easy for him or her to get dressed and to take part in therapy sessions. They will be expected to participate in meetings with the medical team and sometimes in therapy sessions. This will allow everyone to ask questions and understand the patient’s rehab process.

Five Things to Remember

1. The goal of inpatient rehab is to help patients be independent — doing as much for themselves as they can.
2. Rehab is done with a patient, not to a patient. The patient must be willing and able to work with rehab services during active treatment and, later, with caregivers or by themselves at home.
3. The patient’s chronic (long-term) health conditions, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, are treated during rehab, but they are not the reason the patient is in rehab.
4. Most inpatient rehab services last weeks, not months.
5. Most insurance policies cover inpatient rehab (after a qualifying hospital stay) when ordered by a doctor, but there will probably be extra costs, such as incidentals.


How To is a series of self-help leaflets designed to provide you with tools and tips for Caregiving. External authorship is cited where known. Neither the authors nor The Caregiver Foundation is engaged in providing medical, legal or financial advice. You should always check with your own professionals before taking action on any ideas presented in this series.

For more information contact info@thecaregiverfoundation.org or telephone (808) 625-3782.

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