Choose Wisely

Ask the right questions when seeking rehabilitation.

Snowbird Beth*, 89, spent the entirety of her 35-year working career serving the federal court system as a stenographer, dutifully transcribing trial proceedings in shorthand.

There were no stenotype machines back in her day, so the work made Beth tough, but that toughness was challenged late last year when she became ill during her annual visit to Florida.Ask the right questions when seeking rehabilitation

“In October, there was an incident with Mom’s health I didn’t understand and neither did her doctor,” describes Beth’s daughter Stella. “She was being observed in the hospital, but ended up just lying in bed too long. I thought she needed to have therapy, so I asked the hospital staff to transfer her to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital.

“When Mom came home from Encompass Health, she was fine. But about two months later, she didn’t feel well again. I called an ambulance, and she went back to the hospital. They discovered she needed gallbladder surgery, so she had surgery and then went back to Encompass Health for postsurgical rehabilitation. That all happened around Christmas.”

Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of the Treasure Coast is an acute-level rehabilitation hospital located in Vero Beach. It’s the only facility in the area that offers that level of care.

As a hospital, Encompass Health provides daily visits by two physicians and round-the-clock certified registered nursing care. Patients also work with experienced therapists who guide them toward their goals and prepare them for returning home.

“I thought Encompass Health was the best facility for my mother,” Stella relates. “They provided three hours of physical therapy per day, not just an hour and a half like so many other centers. I didn’t want her just lying in bed. That’s not what she’s going to rehabilitation for.

“During her three hours of physical therapy, Mom did a lot of walking and arm exercises. As part of her occupational therapy, she did picture matching and other fun activities, which she enjoyed. The therapists did a good job of keeping her therapy interesting and entertaining.

“They use a lot of different pieces of equipment when treating patients, depending on their ability level and what’s wrong with them. It was very interesting to watch all the patients in different modes of therapy with the equipment, not just Mom.”

Choice Checklist

When people need rehabilitation and are faced with a choice of where to go, it’s important they become informed consumers and understand the world of rehabilitation, stresses Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at Encompass Health. Sometimes, consumers must fight for their right to choose the facility they desire.

“People want to make sure they’re given adequate choices that meet their specific needs when it comes to their rehabilitation decisions,” Dawn observes. “The question becomes, How do patients make intelligent choices once they’re given a list of facilities at the hospital? That’s generally what happens, then patients select a facility from the list.

“I’ve compiled some questions people and families can use to make informed decisions and choose facilities that work best for them.”

The first such question is whether the patient will be seen by a physician and if so, how often. Because patients leave acute-care hospitals very quickly, it’s important they are seen by a physician during rehab. At Encompass Health, patients are seen by a combination of primary care and rehab physicians six to seven times per week.

“The next question that needs to be asked is, Does the facility have all the necessary members of the rehab team on site?” Dawn states. “In addition to physicians, team members may include a speech-
language therapist, physical and occupational therapists, a dietician, certified rehab nurses, a respiratory therapist and a case manager. We have all these team members on staff at Encompass Health.

“Also, ask about the number of hours of therapy provided to patients. As an acute rehab hospital, Encompass Health is required to provide at least three hours of therapy per day.”

Further, it’s important to inquire about the facility’s percentage of patients who return to acute-care hospitals.

“Skilled nursing facilities have a discharge rate back to acute care of nearly twenty-five percent, while the rate for rehabilitation hospitals averages ten percent,” Dawn discloses. “This is a reflection of the hospitals’ ability to maintain a higher level of care for their patients. Maintaining a low discharge rate to acute-care hospitals is an extremely important objective for Encompass Health.

“Another thing to explore is whether the facility has nurses on staff who are certified in rehabilitation. Also, ask about the technology they have available to deal with physical disabilities. Is it state-of-the-art? Encompass Health has rehab-certified nurses and the most advanced technology for rehabilitation.

“Gathering all this information will increase people’s knowledge and help them make the best possible decision for themselves or their loved ones.”

After weighing the answers to these questions, people seeking rehabilitation can make an informed choice of a facility for their care, Dawn points out. She also notes it’s important for patients and families to ask for Encompass Health by name.

Wonderfully Motivated

Stella describes her mother, Beth, as an out-to-dinner socialite who loves to play with her cat. She relied on Encompass Health to return her mom to health following surgery and get her back to doing her favorite activities.

“When we went to Encompass Health the second time, the entire staff met us in Mom’s room,” Stella recalls. “They said they saw my mother’s name on the dietary department list, so they knew we were coming back.

“As soon as I walked into Mom’s room, everybody was standing there greeting us. They all knew us, so it was just like family, with everybody gathered in Mom’s room to visit.

“The Encompass Health staff is absolutely wonderful. I can’t say enough about what they did for my mother. They did everything they could to keep Mom motivated and moving forward during her rehabilitation.

“The staff was wonderful to my mother and me both times we were there. I admire everyone at Encompass Health for their professionalism and work ethic.”

Dawn’s checklist can be used to gather information to make an informed decision on a rehabilitation facility. Stella had her own reasons for choosing Encompass Health for her mother’s rehabilitation.

“I chose Encompass Health because it’s the cleanest facility and the employees have the best attitude,” she enthuses. “And we get really good care there, especially when it comes to Mom’s therapy. The therapy room is nice and big, and patients get a lot of attention. I feel more comfortable with my mom at Encompass Health.”

Stella says her mom, an Ohio native, is not particularly active. She prefers watching golf on TV over playing it herself. But after Beth’s stay at Encompass Health, she felt up to par.

“Mom doesn’t play sports or golf,” Stella confirms, “but she watches all the golf tournaments every week and cheers for her favorites, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods or whoever’s on at the time.

“My mother was at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of the Treasure Coast for ten days. She was discharged shortly after New Year’s. And since I brought her home, she’s been holding her own. She has a good life.”

*Names withheld at their request.
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