Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
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Spinal  Cord  Injuries
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Spinal cord injury


Spinal Cord Injuries

Finding the Right Rehab Center / What to Ask?

It is important to find the right rehabilitation center for your loved one. What follows are questions that may aid in making the right decision.

• Are the beds for people with SCI in the same area of the facility? Are there people in the SCI program of the same age and sex as the person considering admission?

• Do the people in the SCI program have similar levels and kinds of spinal cord injury e.g., quadriplegia, paraplegia, incomplete and complete?

• What is the average number of people admitted annually to the SCI program? (program staff should treat people with SCI on a regular basis to acquire and maintain expertise.)

• Is the SCI program accredited by the Commission on the 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)?

• Is the SCI program part of a SCI rehabilitation system operated by the state?

• Will the treatment team develop a rehabilitation plan with both short and long term goals?

• Will an experienced case manager be assigned to help family members obtain medical payments and other benefits from public and private insurance? Will a team member be assigned to coordinate treatment and act as a contact for staff and family members?

Program Elements

• Is the physician in charge a Physiatrist? If not, what credentials does he/she have? How long has the physician in charge been directing programs specializing in SCI? Is there physician coverage seven days a week? Twenty-four hours a day?

• Do the regular nursing staff and other specialists responsible for providing treatment in the SCI program have specific training in treating SCI? Is the nursing staff employed by the hospital or employed through an outside agency?

• Does the program ensure the availability of rehabilitation nursing and respiratory care on a twenty-four hour basis?

• How often and for how long each day will participants get treatment by specialists such as occupational and physical therapists? Treatment should be no less then three hours per day.

• Are other specialties such as driver education, rehabilitation engineering, chaplaincy, and therapeutic recreation available if needed?

• Are activities planned for SCI program participants on weekends and evenings?

• How much time is spent teaching SCI program participants and their families about sexuality, bowel and bladder care, skin care and other essential self-care activities?

Pediatric Programs

• Because incidence rates of SCI among children are relatively low, rehabilitation hospitals and programs usually do not maintain a separate program or unit exclusively for children with SCI. As an alternative, caregivers may consider facilities/programs which place children with SCI in rehabilitation units with other children with chronic disabilities. Hopefully, this will provide families and children with opportunities to share common experiences and information with each other, and may lead to the development of support networks in the community.

• It is possible that children may be placed in units with other children who are too ill for rehabilitation. Children generally derive greater benefit if they undergo rehabilitation with other children who are actively involved in the rehabilitation process.

• Are the beds for children with spinal cord injuries in one area or in the same location as children with similar disabilities?

• Are children of the same sex and similar age currently in the program/facility?

• Is the physician in charge an individual with experience in rehabilitation? Does this physician have experience with children? If not, what are his/her qualifications? Do the other staff members specialize in pediatrics?

• How many children with SCI does the program/facility admit on an annual basis?

• Does the program/facility offer educational programs for children and young adults undergoing treatment? If not, does the facility coordinate tutoring programs with local schools? If so, who is responsible for payment?

• Are there child life or therapeutic recreation specialists on staff? (Child life specialists develop programs for children and families which strive to maintain normal living patterns and minimize the clinical environment. Therapeutic recreation specialists focus on teaching persons with disabilities new leisure and sports skills to maximize their independence).

• Are young siblings and friends allowed to visit the unit?

• Does the program/facility offer adaptive technology to help children communicate and learn?

• Is counseling available for siblings and families members?

The National Spinal Cord Injury Association Resource Center (NSCIRC) provides information and referral on any subject related to spinal cord injury. Contact the resource center at 1-800-962-9629.

Find out more about…  
Clinical Trials Coping with a Spinal Injury


Spinal Cord Injury Packet
Spinal Cord Injury Booklet
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