Rehabilitation giving new life to patients

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A rehabilitation program is getting Brisbane Private Hospital patients back on their feet quickly and helping to improve their quality of life.

The holistic approach provides support and practical solutions to ‘temporary disability’ during post-operative recovery, which can often be so daunting, particularly for older patients, they avoid the surgery and continue to live with pain.

Consultant physician and geriatrician Anthony French said the program involved physiotherapists, occupational therapists and doctors and had been, quite literally, life changing for the elderly.

“Rehabilitation focuses on improved mobility, self care and independence in their own home, along with enhanced suitability of their own home in-line with any long term limitations,” he said.

“Temporary disabilities such as limited weight bearing, reduced ability to self care, temporary adaptation to new equipment, such as knee scooters and four-wheeled walkers, can have a huge impact on patients’ lives, particularly for older people who live alone.

“We assist in arranging equipment in the home before they return to maximise safety and improve their ability to manage after their discharge from hospital.

“Some medically fragile patients also benefit from the use of the rehabilitation unit to improve their medical and physical status after their operation, as well as to optimise their recovery and manage any unexpected complications as our unit is staffed by geriatric medicine specialists.

“Considering the role of rehabilitation in cases where recovery from the operation might not be straightforward, patients who might otherwise be reluctant to have surgery can do so with the support offered by our unit.”

Dr French said orthopaedic patients were among the most vulnerable, because of the perceived difficulty in caring for themselves post-operatively.

“While orthopaedic issues can restrict their ability to exercise and maintain their fitness for a long time prior to surgery those requiring, for example, foot surgery, shoulder surgery and knee or hip replacement are often worried the recovery time could make it difficult to cope at home,” he said.

“Across the board, our rehabilitation programs incorporate readying patients’ homes for their return, including temporary or permanent equipment such as shower chairs, over toilet frames and mobility aids.

“We also assist with modifications including support bars in showers and toilets, and rails for stairs and areas of the home and environment that need enhanced safety.

“Most modifications and equipment are prescribed by our physiotherapists, occupational therapists and doctors, and are most commonly used in situations where long term safety enhancement improves the person’s independence and ability to remain in their own home.

“Support services are also arranged as part of the rehabilitation program including temporary and permanent options such as hygiene support, shopping, meal provision and medication and nursing assistance as required.

“Some health funds do not provide funding assistance for these supports and some, such as the Transition Care Program are supported by the Government with partial payment by the client.”

Dr French said general practitioners and surgeons could refer patients for a pre-operative assessment by a geriatrician in advance of any procedures.

“Pre-operative consultations cover what to expect, what is involved and answer questions such as suitability of the home and expected duration of recovery,” he said.

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