Back in Step
After Bill Woody, 86, experienced a stroke in early November 2013, he was unable to move his left arm and left leg. Thankfully, undergoing intensive therapy at Augusta Health's Inpatient Rehab Facility (IRF) allowed him to get his life back.
"After only a few months of therapy, I'm able to walk up stairs now, and that's something I never would have imagined back in November," he says. Woody spent three weeks in the IRF, followed up by outpatient appointments. Not only did he regain significant mobility, but his wife, Nancy, learned exercises that would help boost his healing at home with her assistance.
As he works toward getting full movement back, Woody credits the professionalism and knowledge of the IRF staff, and also the pleasant way that they encourage and challenge him. "When I go for therapy, I feel like I'm going to see friends," he says.
The IRF is a hidden gem located on the ground floor of Augusta Health. This eight-bed specialized unit is dedicated to the care of patients who require intensive therapy due to conditions such as stroke, significant trauma and other neurological disorders.
In addition to 24-hour nursing care, physical therapy and occupational therapy, the IRF offers speech therapy and recreational therapy if needed, provided by a team of professionals who employ a variety of strategies to provide customized care.
For example, a patient who's an avid hiker or a frequent golfer will have therapy geared toward helping that person return to those activities, with exercises that emphasize certain muscle groups.
The facility also features a fully furnished apartment to practice skills like preparing a meal and taking a shower, which can be daunting for those with limited mobility.
To speed recovery, the IRF creates an individualized plan for each patient, with discharge to home as the ultimate goal. The team of therapists and physicians is kept small, to provide a sense of camaraderie and familiarity, says Amy Prochaska, one of the IRF's physical therapists.
"This is a stressful time for patients and their families, so we all try to create an environment that's professional but also fun," she says. "We want them to feel that they're among friends."
Having staff dedicated to provide care in this unit allows for more one-on-one time with patients, says inpatient physical therapy supervisor Nancy Koplin. "We develop a unique rapport with our rehab patients and because we also have an Adult Neuro Program, many of the patients we saw for rehab following their stroke can come back and see the same therapist again for their outpatient care." Koplin adds that the therapists are passionate about working with rehab patients, and they all dive deep into continuing education to find the most innovative, creative and evidence-based treatment approaches available.
"With these patients, you're working with someone who's had a disabling event occur, and you're teaching them how to function again," says occupational therapist Marian Updike. "It's exciting to work toward getting them back home."
Another distinctive feature is family training; caregivers are taught how to help patients do their daily activities and exercises at home to speed their progress. Nancy Woody notes that the education allowed her to feel more comfortable in assisting her husband with exercises he wouldn't have been able to do on his own.
"We absolutely encourage family participation and involvement," says Marcia Trask, a registered nurse who serves as the IRF admissions coordinator. "Because some patients will have to live with a certain amount of disability, family members are encouraged to come and watch the therapy sessions and gain education that will help them continue the process when the patient goes home. Nursing plays an important teaching role to help patients and their families feel confident about the transition to home."
Patients in the IRF engage in intensive therapy for three hours per day, five days per week. The length of stay depends on each patient, but most are in the unit between 10 and 28 days, with outpatient care available after they leave.
"Our foundation has always been individualized care, and we follow patients through the continuum of care, from their initial presentation, evaluation and diagnostic testing to rehabilitation," says Robert McMahon, MD, co-medical director of the IRF and medical director of the Augusta Health Stroke Program. "That means caring for them after they leave the facility as well, because that's part of our model of care."
Scott Crabtree, director of therapies and fitness, echoes this. "We are very fortunate to have the excellent facilities, programs and rehab teams here at Augusta Health to provide rehabilitation for our patients throughout the full continuum of care: preventive therapy/fitness, acute hospital stay, inpatient rehab, outpatient and medical fitness," he says.
For many patients the therapy process may be arduous, but the professionalism and enthusiasm of all the IRF team members make the facility a place of healing on every level.