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The Caregivers' Role in Rehabilitation 

By Sean Kenny

(Page 1 of 3)

The ever expanding role of caregivers has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Primary caregivers have always been extensions of their medical facility based counterparts, whether they are doctors, physiologists, nutritionists, or psychologists. The field of rehabilitative medicine is no different.

There is a growing need for rehabilitative and therapeutic practice beyond the traditional medical setting. Even many health clubs are now providing several rehabilitative services once found only in the clinical setting. Caregivers are also in a unique situation to help administer rehabilitative prescriptions for their loved ones as part of the care team.

Effective rehabilitation requires effective communication. Poor communication results in lost time in the rehabilitation process. By maintaining open lines of communication, problems can be minimized and eliminated more readily. Caregivers can insure there is an open and regular dialogue with the other health care professionals involved in their loved one's care.

Along with the task of maintaining lines of communication, the caregiver's role may take the form of implementing some actual program exercises. Some of these exercises may include actively moving an injured limb through a range of motion, assisting in flexibility exercises or even applying manual resistance in strengthening activities. Occasionally testing and recording the progress of the activities are also common assignments given to caregivers. Many caregivers also find themselves in the role of motivator for their loved ones, helping them adhere to their therapy and program. Simply being present can help provide the accountability to keep patients progressing. 

For legal reasons, decisions in programming must be left to the medical professionals in charge of the case. But the caregiver is called upon to question decisions if they don't seem to make sense. Effective caregivers need to make sure their concerns and their loved one's concerns are understood and addressed. It is equally important to understand the strategy of the rehabilitative process and not deviate from the medically designed plan. Please make sure you are comfortable in this assistance role and feel confident you received ample training and supervision for any active role you may play in actual program assistance. 

Documentation of activities is frequently another caregiver responsibility. Report writing, exercise logs, updates, contracts, etc. are all valuable tools for recording and evaluating a program's progression. Make sure all reports are in a legible, orderly format for other health care personnel. Written documentation also proves invaluable should legal matters arise. 

Above all, caregivers must be sensitive to the individual needs of their loved one during the rehabilitative process. Patience and understanding are especially vital in rehabilitative relationships. Caregivers need to be familiar with their loved one's condition, medical terminology and treatment procedures. This will aid in communication and interactions with medical personnel. The more positive the environment and interactions, the more positive the outcomes.

Rehabilitation Terminology

To help insure effective communication throughout the rehabilitation process, here are some commonly used terms to describe certain conditions and exercises. This list is supplemental and in no way extensive.

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