You never know what twists and turns life has in store. Sometimes an unexpected fall or period of illness may land you in the hospital. Next thing you know, the team of caregivers at the hospital are suggesting you get short-term, inpatient rehabilitation to regain your strength. Sometimes the same recommendation can come following a scheduled procedure like a knee replacement or a shoulder surgery.
Whether your rehab stay is pre-planned or not, it can feel like an overwhelming experience to enter into a lengthy stay where the main item on your agenda each day is exercise. Especially if you are feeling less than 100%. There may be added anxiety as you consider the additional precautions in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many enter into this experience not fully knowing what to expect which can add unnecessary stress and even cause a few missteps along the way. Here are a few tips that can help you be prepared.
1. Anticipate limitations on visitation
The COVID-19virus has caused many regulations to befall the healthcare industry. One of the most disruptive regulations has been the limitation of visitors and in some cases, the restriction of visitation all together. Be sure to check with the rehab community you select beforehand so that you understand their most up-to-date policy on allowing guests. Keep in mind that protocol is often at the mercy of the positivity rates in that county and based on recent positive cases that may have occurred within the staff or patients that they have in-house.
2. You may be required to take regularCOVID-19 tests
Infection control has always been at the top of the list in the healthcare arena. However, since the onset of the pandemic, it has moved from being “on the top of the list” to being a literal obsession. Keeping the coronavirus out of the building is by far the best defense mechanism to keep everyone safe. Between state and federal regulations in addition to the community’s own company policy, it may be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test upon admission and periodically during your rehab stay. Care team members are required to produce a negative test on a regular basis as well. You may choose to inquire with the rehab community of your choice prior to admission to understand their testing protocol for incoming patients and what may be required throughout the stay. Additionally, you may wish to understand what type of tests they use, either nasal swab or mouth swab, and the accuracy of each.
3. Be prepared with Technology
Even if the visitation policy allows for some limited visitors in the beginning, this policy could change at any point during your stay. For that reason, bring along a smartphone or tablet that has virtual calling capabilities along with the coordinating chargers. If you don’t have these items, you may want to inquire with the rehab community as many have tablets that patients can check out for virtual calls with family. You may also want to understand their Wi-Fi capabilities to enjoy these virtual calls uninterrupted.
4. Expect to experience frustrations with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is the collective description for all of the items that you might see a healthcare worker wearing while delivering your care. Items like masks, face shields, gowns, or gloves. At times, this hazmat-like outfit can be overwhelming to the patient and even inhibit clear communication. Wearing the mask eliminates your ability to read lips and can even muffle the voice of softer spoken individuals. If you depend on hearing aids, be sure to have them in and turned up when engaging with the care team. Also, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for them to repeat themselves or even write down what they are trying to communicate. Don’t worry, they are used to it at this point. Remember, they won’t be able to pull down their masks, so remaining flexible with communication is key. You might also be asked to wear a mask when getting close to your care team or when entering into a space that is shared by others like the therapy gym or other common areas.
5. Plan on being exhausted- not bored!
The pandemic conditions have certainly cut back on the amount large group socials, gatherings and events that took place in the world before. The same is true in healthcare settings that may have offered a variety of group activities to entertain you during your down time but have now evolved to provide smaller group gatherings that can accommodate social distancing as well as lots of one-on-one opportunities. There will be ample activities to meet your social, spiritual, and intellectual needs- if you choose to engage. If not, no worries. You see, your main job during a short-term rehabilitation stay is to work with your physical, occupational and speech therapist teams to get stronger and condition your body to thrive. That means that resting your body between therapy sessions is a critical part of your journey. Besides, most people find that they are far too tired to be bored.
Cheers to you as you enter your personal rehabilitation journey towards strength and wellness!