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    How to Support Your Loved One's Physical Therapy

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD

    When he decided to give snowboarding a try, 51-year-old Kris Bickell wasn't worried about the challenge. He was already a decent skier.

    As predicted, it went great -- until he moved off the chairlift. "One foot got stuck in the snow, while the other kept sliding down the slope on the snowboard," Bickell says. The result: a torn labrum in both hips.

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    Bickell, who lives in Cheshire, CT, and is an online learning director at a local university, took his accident in stride. But the recovery has been slower than he figured. He's had more than 50 physical therapy sessions, countless at-home exercises -- and a whopping supply of support from his wife, Ann.

    When you're a caregiver, it's important to keep things in perspective. Bouncing back from surgery or illness can take longer than you expect. Try to think of your loved one's rehab as a marathon, not a sprint.

    Expect Ups and Downs

    The person you're caring for may make huge strides one day and slide backward the next. That's normal. Don't worry if a sudden burst of recovery is followed by a standstill. It's fine as long as there's an overall upward slope.

    "You're always looking for some progress," says Jay Neidich, vice president of rehabilitative services for VNA Healthtrends. If you don't see gradual improvement over time, talk to his doctor.

    Set Realistic Goals

    Base your expectations for his ability to move on how well he got around before his surgery or illness.

    "The goal is to get the patient back to their prior level of function," Neidich says. "If they walked 50 feet with a rolling walker, that's the goal. If they were walking 500 feet -- that should be the goal."

    In the beginning, he may need to use things like a cane, crutches, or a walker. Bickell remembers how important they were.

    "I had two 80-year-old neighbors. One offered me her walker and the other, her cane," he says. "At first I said, 'No way,' then came to my senses. They both helped so much."

    Expect progress to unfold in stages. During the first phase, for example, crutches may help your loved one feel comfortable as he builds up strength. Then he'll move to the next stage, which may be walking on his own.

    Independence is a positive, realistic target to shoot for. The more he can do himself, the better.

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