For the final part of our series on rehabilitation in a skilled nursing care center, we talk to a patient who didn’t plan on needing short-term rehab after joint replacement surgery.

By Sallie Gowan

Like most people going into joint replacement surgery, Mary Avery had everything planned out. A doctor she knew and trusted for the total knee replacement surgery in Montgomery, and then home to small town Union Springs to rehab and recover. In retirement, Avery lives with her daughter and 9-year-old grandson, so she knew she would have family around to help.

She’s in her mid-sixties, and surgery went well. But as her discharge from the acute care hospital neared, there was one curveball. One of the general guidelines from the National Institutes of Health say it is OK to go home after joint replacement if you can get in and out of bed “without needing much help.”

In Avery’s case, she was getting around pretty well using a walker, but couldn’t get in and out of bed without someone’s help. And she planned to spend significant portions of her days alone, while her daughter worked and her grandson was in school.

At that moment, her original plan did not seem like such a good fit anymore. It was time to regroup, and she chose short-term rehab at a skilled nursing care center. Her experience shows why it can be wise to think through a preferred “plan B” in case you decide to revise your rehab plans.

Short-term rehab centers encourage you to come by for a tour in advance, where you can see things for yourself and meet a few staff members. Some centers offer classes to help you get familiar with their services.

For her skilled nursing care center, Avery chose Hillview Terrace Rehab Select in Montgomery. For two to three hours a day, she worked one-on-one with physical therapists and occupational therapists to increase her knee’s range of motion, build strength and gain confidence walking.

A therapist identified one change that would be needed at home, and Avery’s family was able to adjust the height of her bed before she returned. Near the end of her 12-day stay, Avery said it had been a good decision. “I wouldn’t take nothing for it,” she said.

A couple months later her enthusiasm had only grown. She was attending church regularly again and handling her errands. Before the knee surgery, Avery’s family didn’t always hit the mark when doing her grocery shopping, but now, “I get out and go for myself,” she said. “I’m doing good.”

Editor’s note: Sallie Gowan is a freelance writer based in Montgomery, Ala.