When a patient comes to a rehabilitation hospital for an inpatient stay, our goal is to get the patient stable and back home. But what happens if a patient is stable enough to be at home, but not personally ready to go back into the community?
The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab offers a distinctive level of care, called DayRehab, that focuses on not just recovery, but return: return to work, return to school, return to driving, return to cooking, return to dressing, return to hobbies, return to social events, return to life and independence. This level of care allows patients to live and sleep at home while still working toward their recovery during the day.
How Is DayRehab Different from Inpatient?
The inpatient teams work intensively toward goals to get patients home safely. In DayRehab, teams have the flexibility to work on specific skills at all levels. My favorite part about working in DayRehab is that, on any given day, my patients run the spectrum. On the same day, I could work with someone on higher-level skills to plan a work-simulated presentation, work on swallowing so a patient can finally enjoy a steak dinner with their family, or help organize the layout of a garden to maximize accessibility. In DayRehab, we work to get patients back to enjoying their “new normal,” individualized to whatever that looks like for them.
How DayRehab Works
Evidence shows that optimum recovery depends on three variables: intensity, frequency and repetition. In DayRehab, we focus on all three. Patients attend an average of three to five days of therapy each week, for three- or six-hour sessions each day. Patient stays range from six weeks to one year. This gives the therapy team the flexibility to personalize both short-term and long-term goals, and fine-tune the skills needed for patients to return to their daily life. I always affectionately refer to our patients as “heroes,” because they work so hard to overcome situations that are scary and unexpected, in one of the most challenging yet rewarding rehabilitation programs.
The Importance of Peer Support
DayRehab provides the unique opportunity to transition from the hospital back into the community. While one-on-one treatment time is important for recovery, most people's daily tasks do not take place only in quiet treatment rooms. DayRehab's group treatment sessions give patients the opportunity to collaborate, work in dynamic settings and seek peer support. These group session foster relationships between patients and create a strong sense of community. As a therapist, I love when patients keep in touch, telling me about how they still see their fellow patients today; or, when I am leading a group and the conversation pivots to patients sharing stories and connecting over similar experiences or diagnoses; or when I hear someone say, “It’s nice to meet someone else who understands.”
Preparing for Return to the Community
One of the best ways to return patients to active involvement in the community is through outings. By bringing patients out of the clinic and into the community, they can practice the skills needed for safety and independence. We have so much fun planning our outings during speech sessions, and I love to see patients' joy when we are when we visit places that are either generally or personally relevant. At the Arlington Heights DayRehabCenter®, some of our favorite outings include trips to the grocery store, the mini-golf course, the hardware store, the mall and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Some patients even take public transportation into the city with their physical therapist or occupational therapist to simulate a commute to work!
A Team Approach
Although patients come for treatment in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, DayRehab patients have entire teams of professionals who contribute to their success. In addition to your therapists, patients' teams include physiatrists, nurse practitioners, nurses, vocational counselors, social workers, psychologists and orthotists. As needed, patients also have access to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab's specialists in pain management and assistive technology. Because we start planning for each patient's discharge their first day of treatment, we always have a plan for their “next steps” — whether that is a gradual return to work, continued outpatient care, or participating in a cutting-edge research study. Our goal is always that patients leave DayRehab with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and goals to keep progressing!
For four years, Kate Self has worked as a speech-language pathologist in the DayRehab setting, currently at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab's Arlington Heights DayRehab Center. She values the collaborative treatment that DayRehab offers, and is interested in working toward the continuation of treatment across all disciplines and settings. Kate earned her Master of Science in Speech and Language Pathology from Eastern Illinois University, and has a Certification of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.