For those of us who are generally in decent health, move with ease and have a good energy level, rehabbing from an illness, procedure, fall, accident or surgery takes some effort. But that effort doesn’t consume us, daunt us or prevent us from doing what we need to do to recuperate effectively and successfully.

What many fail to consider is that for those of us who are aren’t in the best of health, physical rehab is work that needs a serious commitment if we want a full and sustainable recovery. For those with multiple illnesses, or who live alone without a support system to keep them going, rehab is a much different experience, and it’s prone to failure. Getting up the energy and mindset to do the work is intimidating and exhausting. If memory issues are a part of the equation, we can’t see the need, much less remember WHY we need to these uncomfortable exercises. If no one is there to prompt us, and keep us accountable and on-track, we’re less likely to meet our full potential. So, when facing the challenges of more extreme age and illness we really do need a cheerleader, a partner!

We’re sent to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) when our level of care needed is so complex, only skilled professionals can safely perform it. One to two hours of physical, occupational or speech therapy are offered daily depending on your insurance and your ability to progress. Acute inpatient therapy offers three hours of more intensive therapy daily, often with more advanced technologies included. If we just need some strengthening exercises to allow us to safely perform our normal activities of daily living, we go home with an order for therapy at home, or at an outpatient center.

So how do we best become a cheerleader to support our loved one? BE PRESENT. Try not to let the patient be or feel alone all the time, even though that may have been normal for them. Visit daily if you can. Go at varied times if someone is an in-patient. Meet the team. Communicate regularly. Understand the goals. Attend therapy with them. Observe so you know what needs to happen when they come home. Exercising together is both motivating and effective when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

A smile, encouragement, connection, participation, consistency – these loving signs of commitment make all the difference to someone who doesn’t or can’t see the short-term need or the long-term purpose. Unfortunately, we do have to be prepared for when those we care for just don’t have the desire, energy or ability to do what’s needed. When that’s the case, we may need to reevaluate t heir living situation.

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP is Director of Care Management for Visiting Angels East Valley
Reach her at 480-833-8247 or