5 Tips for a Smooth Move from Rehab to Home

How to help a parent or partner settle in after a hospital stay

(This article appeared previously on LeadingAge.)

If you or someone you love has had to stay at a rehabilitation facility after a stroke, surgery or an injury, you know that recovery can be a long and difficult process filled with uncertainty about what to expect when transitioning back home.

Changes will be inevitable, but here are five tips that can help make the move back home smoother and less stressful:
1. Expect things to be different. Unrealistic expectations about being able to return to life as normal can lead to disappointment and frustration. Recovery can take a while and in some cases, such as a stroke, you may need to make modifications around the house or get extra assistance from caregivers. Recognizing that these adjustments will ultimately result in a safer and more comfortable living environment may relieve some of the stress associated with the transition.
2. Start planning early. If you think you'll need to make modifications around the house or have extra assistance, don't wait until you're home to start planning. Work with the rehab staff and request a home visit from the physical or occupational therapist so that they can assess the living environment and make recommendations. Make home modifications that the therapists suggest and plan for them to be completed before going home. Make a list of potentially difficult situations and discuss possible solutions with your therapists. Additionally, take a day to visit home prior to discharge so that you can troubleshoot issues before moving back. 
3. Stay focused on goals. Recovery should continue when you go home. Discuss a daily routine with the physical, occupational and speech therapists, and work with caregivers to set short and long-term goals while at home. Staying focused on goals will motivate you to get stronger, and you'll minimize the risk of returning back to a hospital or rehab facility.
4. Take advantage of resources. There are a lot of things to think about when transitioning back home, but your rehab facility will guide you as you make crucial decisions regarding home health services, medical equipment or adaptive equipment that may be needed. They can also put you in touch with resources available within your community. Local communities have a wealth of services such as delivering meals, light housekeeping, transportation and counseling, all of which will provide a helping hand while still enabling independence.
5. Recognize that it's ok to have help. Some people are embarrassed about needing assistance after transitioning home, and some family caregivers think they can take care of their loved ones all on their own. It's important to be realistic about the level of care that will be required, and it's ok to have extra help. Getting help isn't a sign of weakness, but one of strength and care. The earlier you start planning, the healthier and happier you'll be.
Tammy Luther is the director of rehabilitation and therapy services at A.G.Rhodes Health and Rehab, a not-for-profit organization operating three skilled nursing facilities in the Atlanta area. 

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