Rehabilitation Activities for Short-Term Residents

Group of elderly people walking outdoors

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The statistics tell the story. At the beginning of the 21st century, America has a population in which one in every eight residents, or 12.2 percent, are over 65. These numbers increase as each day more than 10,000 U.S. residents celebrate a 65th birthday. A majority of older Americans will spend at least a short-term stay recovering and rehabbing from medical miracles such as hip, knee, and other joint replacements as well as serious medical conditions, ranging from a broken bone to a stroke. The challenge for activity directors: what do to with short-term rehab residents? Here are some rehabilitation activities to try.

Let’s be honest. These are short-term residents. They don’t want to join any existing groups. They want to get well and get home.

Thus the approach of welcoming a new resident, introducing them to new friends they may share common interests with, helping them adjust to their new surroundings, will backfire with the short-term residents. Instead, activity directors need to make the focus comfort and wellness. Here are some ideas.


The short-term resident will be sore and tired from rehab. Give them the hotel treatment. A fresh newspaper every morning, a current magazine in a library style plastic folder with a clean crisp feel.

Fresh Air

Make time to offer to take them outdoors where possible to get a breath of fresh air, feel the sunshine on their faces and get that positive feeling generated by being around nature.


Set up a comfortable and private place for short-term rehab to visit with friends and family. Not the busy dining room where everyone can hear their conversation.

Creature Comforts

Provide creature comforts in their rooms such as warmed towels and blankets, moist cleaning cloths for eyeglasses, a specialty coffee cart in the morning.

Forget the Calendar

Think outside the calendar when it comes to activities. Most short-term residents are not interested in joining the afternoon ongoing bingo game. Instead, bring them a cart filled with a variety of books from mysteries to biographies, DVDs of movies they can watch in their rooms, ask if they would like art supplies, crossword, seek and find and/or puzzle books.​

Make Them Feel Useful

Allow short-term residents to feel useful as they heal. Often them the chance to work as a group on flower arrangements for public areas of the facility, writing care letters to soldiers, and other community charity projects.

Lifelong Learning

Boomers are the best-educated generation in American history. They love to learn so make their short-term rehab group activities as they recover learning experiences.

Interview Them

Conduct a short-term resident interview show, such as the Tonight Show, and let them ask and learn about each other.

Cook Something Up

Ask if they would like to take part in a cooking class. This is a great way to work with physical and occupational therapy departments as the rehab residents practice skills they will need when they return home.

Remember the key to meeting the needs of short-term rehab seniors is to let them direct their own activity plan.

If in a few months or several years these short-term residents have a need of assisted living, personal care or long-term care living arrangements they will remember your facility fondly and choose it as their permanent home. That is basic word of mouth marketing.

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