ARTICLES / Caregiver / The
Caregivers' Role in Rehabilitation /
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
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
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.
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.