Once the acute stage has passed and the brain injury survivor has stabilized, it’s time to enter the rehabilitation phase of care. A good rehabilitation center should offer the survivor a combination of specialized medical care needed to return to the highest level of function, as well as the inspiration and strength needed to cope with debilitating injuries and complications.

All rehabilitation centers are not created equal. One of the most important decisions the family of the survivor will make is where their loved one will spend the rehabilitation phase of treatment. While proximity to the family and whether the center is covered by insurance will certainly factor into the decision, more important is whether the facility is equipped to deal with the survivor’s specific injuries.

Goals of Rehabilitation

A good rehabilitation center has the overall health of the survivor in mind, and offers long-term medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, counseling, family services, and educational services to both the survivor and his or her family. The staff comprises doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, psychologists, case managers, and rehab engineering experts. In other words, there should be specialized staff members who have expertise in just about every issue the survivor will face.

To put it simply, the goal of rehabilitation is to ensure that the survivor is able to live as normal a life as possible. This means not only helping the survivor return to as much cognitive and physical function as possible, but also ensuring the survivor is well-equipped to deal with life after brain injury.

As independence is a goal of rehabilitation, most rehabilitation units have special facilities on-site designed to help the patient learn individual living skills. A good rehabilitation program will not only help survivors relearn the basic skills of everyday life, it will also help survivors cope with any complications of their condition that may require special care.

Standards of Care

Rehabilitation centers that are accredited meet a certain standard of care and are generally preferable to general rehabilitation programs. Look for programs that have been recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). These centers will have met a minimum standard of care, and will offer a wide variety of services. For more information on CARF call 1.520.325.1044, or log on to

The Department of Health’s Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) also gives the designation of Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program (BSCIP) to facilities that meet certain standards and criteria. Facilities with this designation must be accredited by CARF in brain injury and must admit a certain number of brain injury patients per year.

In addition, Model Systems Centers are highly specialized hospitals that have top-quality rehabilitation facilities specifically for patients with brain injuries. There are 16 of these facilities located throughout the United States. These centers qualify for federal grants, and also share medical knowledge. For more information on Model Systems Centers and the information they have collected, visit

In addition to these designations, there are basic elements that every good rehabilitation center should have. These include:

  • A staff that specializes in brain injury.
  • Physician and nursing coverage seven days a week, 24 hours per day.
  • Specialties offered such as family counseling, occupational and physical therapy, speech therapy, job training and community re-entry, life skills, and therapeutic recreation.
  • Weekend and evening activities for residents.
  • Programs that include family and loved ones in the care and rehabilitation of the survivor.

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