As awareness grows about Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, more and more private centers are opening to help those in need. This is a great thing for all those who need specialized and specific training. We need them in every city across the country! There are, however, some questions you should ask to help you find the "right" therapy that works for you.
Here are a few basic questions:
Is there a customized Recovery Program suited to my needs? How is this determined? What is the criteria? How often is it evaluated? Do I have a voice in the goal setting and program routine? How are achievements and progress documented? Do I have access to this information? Is it shared with me on a regular basis?
What types of therapy will be offered? (Locomotor, Functional Electrical Stimulation, Core training, weight bearing, arm and upper body strengthening, Vibration stimulation, Gait training, Posture and standing)
What types of equipment do they have that is in alignment with MY goals for recovery? Does the equipment fit my body weight? Is the equipment in good working order and in good condition? Are there any restrictions that would not allow me to use certain types of equipment?
What are the qualifications of the trainers? How much experience do they have working with someone with a Spinal Cord Injury? Are they certified in activity based restorative therapy? Will I have an opportunity to work with ALL trainers? Will I have input into the training goals and areas I want to focus on?
How convenient is the gym to my needs and limitations. Do the bathrooms have handles I can lock/unlock? Is there a changing table or room I can use if needed? Do they have air dryers I can easily push and soap dispensers that are motion sensored? What is the atmosphere of the gym? Energetic and motivating or quiet and low key? What are my preferences and will I be able to concentrate and thrive in this atmosphere? Is the location of the gym in a safe and visually pleasant area? Is it bright and cheerful? Is the room temperature comfortable for my body? Am I always too hot or too cold? Are my needs taken into consideration?
Is there a financial assistance program? A sliding scale payment plan? A scholarship fund to help with costs? An open gym fee? What are their rates? Do they have a discount program? A referral program? Do they actively fundraise to generate more revenue to help clients with their therapy bills?
Do they offer a Support group? Caregiver Support group? How often do they meet?
Do they offer additional services like Massage therapy? Yoga? Pilates? Acupuncture? Nutrition Guidance or Dietician visits? Are these services available as part of the program or offered at an additional cost? Is the fee reasonable?
What other perks are available? Do they offer protein shakes after workouts? Is fresh fruit like apples and bananas available if you are running late or begin to feel weak? Do they offer bottled water versus tap or well water? Can I access the kitchen and appliances?
Does the Caregiver area have comfortable and restful seating? Is WiFi available? Do caregivers have access to refreshments like coffee or tea? Snacks or fruit for pick me ups after a long drive or tiring day? Reading material or quiet time?
Does the facility have a dry unloading/loading area for bad weather? During rain, will you safely be able to get into your vehicle under cover or get drenched trying to load? This may not seem as important as your training program but you may have to cancel your therapy every time the weather is bad if you know you will get soaked before your workout or drenched for your ride home. This is where a changing room would be beneficial if an extended awning or portico is not part of the main structure.
Does the facility have a recreational area where you can socialize with others? Wii gaming, TV, air hockey table, basketball net, board games, beanbag toss? These can not only be fun and socially competitive, they also help with balance, muscle strengthening, coordination and fine motor movement.
Don't assume all facilities are the same. Do your homework and find the one that's best for you.