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Here's how to keep rehab patients motivated

Ask Dr. Marion: Marion Somers, Ph.D.


Dear Dr. Marion:

My father suffered a terrible fall six months ago and has been home from the rehabilitation center for the last few weeks. It seems like he’s losing his will to stick with his exercise program. What can I do?

Cheryl in Nebraska, 66

For people who have undergone a medical or physical challenge, it can be extremely difficult to continue with rehab once they return home from the hospital or care facility. It’s an especially difficult transition since they no longer have the stimulation and encouragement of the nurses and professionals around them. Your father can easily lose his momentum, and this will stop him from reaching a higher level of rehabilitation and functionality. You should do all you can to keep him motivated and improving.

But to do that, you must get involved. You can’t just give him the pictures or the video and the exercises he needs to do. If at all possible, stop by and do the activities with him. If you can’t be there, suggest that he put on his favorite music while he’s exercising. Time things to a favorite television show. It can also be effective with big sports fans to have them work out while the game is on. You might want to set a specific time for the workout, and then call your dad to check on him. Most people like it when others show their interest and concern this way.

Even the most disciplined and motivated person can get discouraged, so don’t put a specific time frame for complete healing. It’s important that you start this process as soon as possible so he doesn’t get used to a certain level of pain or discomfort or lack of function. As soon as that mindset starts to set in, you’ve lost the battle.

Find the fun in it and reemphasize the image of your father as a complete, healed and fully functioning individual. Help him visualize a goal. If there’s a family wedding coming up, dancing with the grandkids should be a real target for him. Good luck!

Dr. Marion (Marion Somers, PhD) is the author of “Elder Care Made Easier” and has more than 40 years of experience as a geriatric care manager, caregiver, speaker and expert in all things elder care. Visit www.DrMarion.com for more information.