Rehabilitation after illness or injury
What is rehabilitation?
If you have been injured or had a serious illness, you might need extra help to get better. Rehabilitation services can help you recover from a stroke, a heart attack, a workplace injury, surgery, or many other things.
It is a slow, step-by-step process. Life after your injury may be different to your life before. The goal of rehabilitation is to help you return to living the best life possible, despite any changes.
How can rehabilitation help me?
You might need to use rehabilitation services if you have:
- had a stroke
- had a spinal injury
- had a brain injury
- suffered burns
- had surgery
- had a heart attack
- had an illness, including a mental illness
- spent a long time in hospital
Rehabilitation might help you:
- get moving again
- regain your strength
- relearn skills or find new ways of doing things
- manage your medical appointments
- manage your treatments
- access aids and equipment
You can talk to your doctor about what you would like rehabilitation to do for you. With your doctor, you will set some goals. Then you and your doctor will work out how to get there.
Injury and illness can occur at home, at work or elsewhere. As well as helping you physically recover, you may require some adjustments in other areas of your life. Rehabilitation can also provide:
- social support
- assistance with returning to work
You will play a very important part in your rehabilitation. You will need to be patient — it takes time — but it can help.
How long does rehabilitation take?
The length of rehabilitation depends on:
- the help you need
- your injury or illness
- your individual pace
Rehabilitation may be a fast process or continue over several years of your life.
Types of rehabilitation services
Rehabilitation services are usually different from standard hospital services. There will be specialised staff involved, like:
- specialist rehabilitation doctors
- occupational therapists
- speech therapists
- social workers
- other allied health professionals
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Rehabilitation can be done in different settings. These include inpatient and outpatient settings.
Inpatient rehabilitation is done in a:
- special hospital ward, like a stroke unit
- specialist rehabilitation hospital or rehabilitation centre
- private hospital
Health professionals there will work with you, your family and other carers to create a rehabilitation plan. This will set goals and include a discharge plan for going home.
Outpatient (out of hospital) rehabilitation might involve health workers visiting you at home. It may also involve attending clinics as an outpatient or taking part in rehabilitation programs. Sometimes these are group programs with other people who need rehabilitation.
How can I manage rehabilitation costs?
Some people will be eligible for Medicare rebates. Private health insurance might also offer you rebates for rehabilitation, depending on the level of cover.
If you have been injured at work, you might be eligible for workers compensation.
The Healthdirect service finder lists rehabilitation services and allied health professionals in your area.
If you have a service-related injury, your veteran white or gold card can help cover some treatment costs.
Resources and Support
If you want to know more about rehabilitation after illness or injury, talk to your doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak to, 24 hours, 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: August 2022