Part A: Brain injury and specialist rehabilitation

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What is rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process after surgery or significant injury. Rehabilitation has a whole-of-person approach that aims to achieve the highest possible level of function, maximise quality of life and minimise the need for ongoing health and community support. Rehabilitation aims to restore function across physical, psychological, social and vocational domains.

Rehabilitation involves identification of a person’s problems and needs, relating the problems to relevant factors of the person and the environment, defining rehabilitation goals, planning and implementing the measures, and assessing the effects. The World Health Organization defines rehabilitation as ‘a set of measures that assist individuals who experience, or are likely to experience, disability to achieve and maintain optimal functioning in interaction with their environments’.60 The concept of rehabilitation is broad, and rehabilitation:

  • targets improvements in individual functioning
  • includes making changes to an individual’s environment
  • reduces the impact of a broad range of health conditions
  • can occur for a specific period of time, involve single or multiple interventions delivered by an individual or team and typically addresses goals that are meaningful to the person
  • can be needed from the acute or initial phase immediately following recognition of a health condition through to post-acute and maintenance phases.

Rehabilitation outcomes

Rehabilitation care contributes to the health and wellbeing of the community by improving health outcomes and reducing disease burden, reducing healthcare costs and costs of social services, reducing disability and improving community participation of people with a disability, and improving quality of life. Rehabilitation care aims to minimise or prevent disability, support people to improve their participation in life, and reduce the impact on families and the community.

Rehabilitation care helps people achieve and maintain optimal function in interaction with their environment through five outcomes.

  • Prevention of the loss of function
  • Slowing the rate of loss of function
  • Improvement or restoration of function
  • Compensation for lost function
  • Maintenance of current function.

Rehabilitation principles

The Principles to Support Rehabilitation Care provide more details on these principles.40

These principles are fundamental to all levels and types of rehabilitation care. Collectively, these principles inform the planning of rehabilitation services and how those services operate. Enacting these principles creates an environment and culture where person-centred rehabilitation flourishes.

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