The importance of setting meaningful goals in rehabilitation

June 28, 2018

Setting goals after stroke is an essential part of rehabilitation. We know working together with your rehab team and family members enhances this process by ensuring the focus is on you. Collaborative goal setting improves motivation, compliance, and satisfaction with your rehabilitation routine. Despite this, few have studied the best ways to implement goal-setting tools into the clinical setting. Some believe this is due to stroke patients being unclear on their role in and the meaning of goal-setting. Researchers from Finland designed a study to better understand the participation of stroke patients in setting rehabilitation goals.

What does patient-centered rehabilitation mean to you?

In total, twenty patients participated in the study. Thirteen patients were post-stroke, and seven had other conditions requiring rehab. The average age was 66 years old. After setting goals for the next six months of rehabilitation, researchers interviewed the patients. The interviews were as open as possible, allowing the rehabilitees to describe their experiences of participation in the goal-setting situation. Moreover, every discussion began with an open question: “Please tell me about your experiences, views, and opinions of your participation in the goal-setting situation?”. They found five important individual perspectives. First, “trust in the rehabilitation situation, professionals, oneself, and relatives.” Others included, “respectful presence,” “confusing awareness,” “disturbing pain,” and “fear of unpredictability.”

The findings of the study

Giving patients and their family members a voice in goal-setting after a stroke helps them commit to rehabilitation. In contrast, pain and uncertainty around their newfound health changes limit participation in setting goals. The researchers made a few recommendations based on their findings. First, rehab professionals should be encouraged to include the patient during goal-setting as much as possible. Second, family members should be involved in the goal-setting process. Relatives are essential for support and motivation during the process. Next, rehab professionals should work to remove any obstacles preventing patients from participating in goal-setting. Finally, these professionals should work to recognize patients with health changes so they can offer the support needed.

Work with your caregivers and rehabilitation team to set your goals. Because this process helps you have more control over your rehabilitation, you can tailor it to your needs. Feeling like you are working towards the goals you set can help you stick to a program.

The first author of the original article was Tuulikki Alanko, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Central Hospital of Central Finland, Jyväskylä, Finland.

Editorial note:

Taking an active part in setting your rehabilitation goals can help you stick with a program.

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