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Spinal Cord Injury: Finding a Rehab Center - Topic Overview

Rehabilitation (rehab) for a spinal cord injury (SCI) is typically done in a special center. You and your family work with a rehab team, a group of health professionals that designs a unique plan for your recovery. This plan will help you recover as much function as possible, prevent complications, and help you live as independently as possible. The team includes your doctor and a rehab nurse, plus specialists such as physical and occupational therapists.

The rehab center should be able to meet your special needs. Research the center keeping this in mind, and ask questions about its staff, accreditation, equipment, activities, programs, and how it transitions you back into your community.

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General questions

  • Does your center treat only those with an SCI, or others as well? If it treats others, are people with an SCI kept in the same or different areas?
  • What can you tell me about the patients in your center? Are they older or younger? Male or female? Do most of them have a specific level of injury? What is it?
  • How many SCIs do you treat in a year?
  • Is your center certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)? Has it been designated as a Model Spinal Cord Injury Center by the National Institute of Disability Research and Rehabilitation (NIDRR)?
  • Does your rehab plan have both short- and long-term goals?
  • Does your center encourage family members of all ages to participate in rehab programs?
  • Are there living arrangements for family members participating in training?
  • Are counseling and other social services available to family members?
  • Could I speak to someone who has gone through your program?

Staffing

  • Does your regular staff have training in SCIs?
  • Do you have trained SCI specialists/therapists? In what areas? (Important areas include physical, occupational, speech-language, and recreational therapies; counseling; and social work.)
  • What kind of and how much experience do your specialists/therapists have?
  • How many people is each specialist/therapist presently caring for?
  • Who is your director and what is his or her background?
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