When there was first talk about me having both of my knees replaced, there was mention of me “going to rehab” after the surgery. I had no idea what “rehab” was. Of course, by its name, I recognized that it would be used to rehabilitate my knees. But, what kind of place was “rehab”? Was it a place where you stayed overnight, or was it a place where you just visited a therapist? I was totally clueless.
So, I began to ask questions and this is what I found out. Rehabilitation can be done either at a facility where you stay or as an outpatient. Apparently, living in a rehab facility for 1 to 3 weeks is most often recommended for someone, like me, who has had both knees done, because it is assumed that those patients are the ones who will require the most help with their daily lives, because they don’t even have “a (good) leg to stand on”! So, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would spend some time in a rehab facility, and a couple of those facilities were near us and were well-known and were recommended by numerous people.
It was suggested that I actually visit one or two rehab facilities before the surgery to find one I liked. So I scheduled a visit to one of the ones that had been recommended by a friend. It was nice and clean, but had been built in the 60’s and had very much a nursing-home feel, even in the rehab wing. And that was one of the negatives I had been told to watch for when visiting facilities. Since most rehab facilities are associated with nursing homes, it was recommended that I look for one where the rehab patients were in a distinctly separate part of the facility — not integrated with the nursing home residents. This first one I visited did have a separate area for rehab, but the rooms looked very much like all the other rooms you could see that were part of the nursing home.
Well, I probably would have gone to that facility anyway, except that I found out it wasn’t an “approved provider” by my insurance company. So, as I should have from the first, I now asked my insurance company for a list of rehab centers which were on their approved list.
The first one on that list was New Haven Care and Rehab. It is in a small town very near us and one with which we are very familiar, so it immediately appealed to me. I called and made an appointment for Hubby and me to visit.
Donna was the person I talked to when I called and she was so warm and helpful, and actually acted like they would like for me to choose them. And when Hubby and I went to visit, she was even nicer in person and gave us a tour. Everyone we met — the director of nursing, the manager of the rehabilitation wing, the concierge, the resident social worker — were all friendly and welcoming.
Then we toured the rehab hall. The floor in the rehab hall looked like wood (although I was told it was actually tile), as opposed to the normal tile in the other halls. I liked that because I’m not particularly good with directions, so I knew I could always look for the hall with the “wood” floor to find my room!
The rooms in the rehab hall were painted a sage green (my very favorite color) and had very nice coordinating valances on the windows. I just liked the over-all “feel” of the place — somehow it reminded me of the feel of staying in a favorite aunt’s guest room! So I told Donna that this was where I wanted to come to “rehab” after my surgery and asked that they plan on me arriving three days after my surgery.
Now, let me get to the analogy that I have come up with for the difference between a hospital and a rehab center.
I compare my stay in the hospital to the baby bird in its egg that is in the nest before it hatches. It is totally taken care of by its mama bird. In its own little world, it wants for nothing and has no decisions to make. All it has to do is be cared for and grow stronger, preparing for the day it can come out of its shell.
And then I compare the rehab center to the nest and mother bird of a newly hatched baby bird. It is still a place where the baby bird is safe, but it is a place that it must eventually leave, and its mama’s job is to prepare it for leaving and being independent.
As the “baby bird”, it was a little bit of an adjustment to move from the cocoon-like “egg” of the hospital to the “let’s help you get out of here” attitude at the rehab center. But once I adjusted, I loved the we’ll-help-you-help-yourself environment.
Their system of taking care of help lights was great. If I pushed the button to turn on the light indicating I needed assistance, a light lit next to my door in the hall. Then the next employee who came by, whether a nurse, aid, therapist, concierge, whoever, would come in to ask what I needed. If that person could help, they did. If they couldn’t, they promptly went to get someone who could. And I noticed something interesting about the call light system. The only way the light could be turned off was for someone to come into the room and push a button on the wall beside the bed. What an interesting design — there was no way for a light to be turned off without actually coming into the room. Good idea, but I never saw any inclination by the people who worked there, that a light would be ignored or forgotten after it was turned off, anyway.
So where at the hospital I was told everything to do, here I was constantly asked if I needed help doing something, the implication being that I should work at doing for myself whenever possible. But if I did say that I needed help, it was always given promptly and cheerfully. My pain medication was even on an ask-and-you-shall-receive basis, and they would talk to me about the level of my pain, to keep me aware of only taking the medication when I actually needed it, not out of habit.
Finally, ten days after arriving at New Haven Care and Rehab, I was released to go home. What a great experience that had been. There are many people there I will never forget (some of whom I will be writing about individually, as I have already done about Dave, the concierge). They treated me just like that baby bird. They nurtured and encouraged me and kept me safe and fed, while all the while preparing me to leave “the nest”. And when the time came for me to leave, they were right there congratulating me on arriving at my goal — independence.
Thank you to all the wonderful care givers at New Haven Care and Rehab. You were truly the wind beneath my wings that allowed me to successfully leave the nest and “fly away home”.