How to do it ... maximizing rehab space

1. If your facility has big needs but small spaces for therapy, don't fret. Many have learned myriad tricks to maximize small areas. 

“Smaller spaces many times improve socialization between patients, encouraging others and praising work well done,” says Jeanna Conder, senior director of clinical operations for Kindred Rehabilitation Services.

“Organize and de-clutter as much as possible,” advises Pam Brooks, a clinical occupational therapy specialist at Centrex Rehab. 

Consider investing in portable therapy bags for essential lightweight equipment, and folding and adjustable-height mat and treatment tables. 

2. Paul Riccio, vice president of finance and development for Vertis Therapy, recently created space in one large facility by removing walls of three adjoining unused rooms. 

“If I can carve off a little private area, that's far more important than 4,000 square feet,” he says. 

One client discovered a vast unused area in its attic to store therapy equipment. Other providers now rely on computers, cameras and tablets, freeing up space once held by heavy resource materials or training devices.

3. Other space-saving ideas include reclining wall- mounted parallel bars and space-saving training stairs, says John J. Leary, PT, director of care advocacy and planning for Genesis Rehab Services. 

Maximize the top areas of closets to store small items, and use collapsible privacy curtains to cordon off space, shelf dividers, and adhesive wall hooks for hanging lightweight equipment, he adds.

4. Maximize big spaces. Aretech LLC, for example, reconfigured the gym at Brookside Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Abington, PA, to accommodate cutting-edge technology.

It was designed to speed recovery by allowing residents to practice walking and balance therapy safely and independently and “practice ADLs in a safe and encouraging environment,” says Meg Judson, M.H.A., director of business development for the facility's management company, Nationwide Health Care Services.

Some showplace rehab facilities come complete with fountains, climbing walls, miniature golf courses, overhead transfer aids, bariatric planning and treatment pools because of increased provider competition, according to Conder.

5. If your budget is limited, focus on the essentials.

“Consider tools that are going to engage 80% of your population,” Riccio says. “Much of the latest and greatest, most expensive rehab tech is specialty in nature, and unless you're developing programs for specialty diagnoses, they're never going to be used on more than 10% of your population.”

6. Choose function over form. Fancy gyms full of expensive equipment “may look good, but if you don't have patients to use it, it's a waste of space and money,” says Conder. 

It's more important that floor space is open to allow movement rather than cluttered with unused equipment, Leary says. In the end, however, he strongly urges facilities to incorporate “all the therapy disciplines, whether the space is 400 or 4,000 feet.”

7. Many seasoned therapists believe a therapy area that is pleasant, inviting and simulates spatial familiarity does more than anything to speed recovery and ADL ability. Consider strengthening, ADL and assistive equipment for simulating functional activities, says Matthew Mesibov, clinical physical therapy specialist at Centrex Rehab.

Many rehab facilities endeavor to mimic homelike features in for that very reason. Ensure the space is well lit (natural is preferred) and pleasant. Create a dynamic, clean, and colorful atmosphere with a fresh coat of neutral paint and odor-free air, Leary advises.