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July 10, 2014

Physical therapy helps some patients return home

It may be assumed that a nursing home is a last stop, but with the help of physical therapy, this isn't always the case.

Physical therapy involves the remediation of impairments and disabilities that decrease mobility in the home and community.

A team of physical therapists at Shanoan Springs Retirement and Rehabilitation Nursing Center currently cares for a total of 54 patients.

Cindy Akins is a Certified/Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant and Director of Rehab. Akins began her career in the health field, but wanted work on the other side of diagnosis, where she could help patients learn to live with physical challenges.

Jill Joseph is a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. She was inspired to pursue a career in therapy after watching a home health worker care for her grandmother after she had a stroke.

Hope Stickley is a Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant.

What is occupational therapy?

"Well, it isn't job therapy," Akins said. "I get that one a lot. Patients tell me they have been retired for years and don't need job training."

Occupational therapy concentrates on improving the patient's daily life, often while dealing with physical challenges. Akins gives the example, that if a person has had a stroke and ends up paralyzed on one side of their body, they may need to learn how to tie their shoes and cut up food with one hand or maintaining balance while reaching for something on a high cabinet. Adaptive equipment and training may be provided for these and other scenarios that impair one's independence.

Akins said there are lots of stories where families expect their spouse or parent will be living at Shanoan Springs, but after therapy they have the independence to return home.

Speech therapy, Joseph said, encompasses more than spoken language. Many of the same parts of the face and throat that are used in speech are also used in eating and swallowing. Joseph does speech therapy with a lot of patients who have dysphagia, which is a swallowing disorder. Communication, swallowing issues, medication management, safety awareness, memory, neurological defects are often addressed with speech therapy.

After a stroke or lengthly illness, speech therapy helps patients reintegrate skills for home as well as returning to the community. Speech therapy is also helpful if patients need to learn to eat differently. Patients may need mechanically chopped or pureed food in order to eat.

One main goal of any kind of therapy is to improve the patient's quality of life.

Together with nursing and the patient's doctor, the physical therapy team works to perform an individualized evaluation, during which the patient/family and therapist determine the patient's goals. The team performs routine outcome assessments and weekly progress notes to evaluate and ensure that the goals are being met and make changes when necessary. All department heads meet daily with the administrator and review every resident in the facility, discussing if the resident has any changes, concerns or complaints.

While physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy perform individual tasks, as a team they focus on fall risk and prevention, walker and wheelchair safety, low vision protocols, communication, standing, balance and tolerance, wound prevention, endurance and emotional support.

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