By Gemma Long
When your loved one is recovering from an operation after an accident or long-term ailment, you want to be sure that they will receive the best possible post-op care.
Heartland Health Care Center in Decatur, Illinois, adjacent to Decatur Memorial Hospital, provides the necessary facilities for short-term rehabilitation or a residential setting for patients requiring a longer stay.
A team of 120 staff supports the center, which cares for up to 117 patients in a specially equipped facility. Its clinical and therapy teams are experienced and committed to providing patients with a smooth and safe transition throughout their recuperation, which is why 89 percent are able to return home.
Lorrie Tinker, director of the rehabilitation department at Heartland Health Care Center, said the primary function of post-op care was helping patients return to how they felt before they underwent their operation or possibly, even better.
“It’s very important for patients who come here, determined by their physician not to be able to go home yet, to receive the best possible post-op care. If you are 23 or 24 and have knee surgery, you can bounce back fairly quickly, but when you’re looking at someone older, they need time to heal, get strong again, and go back home,” she said.
Lorrie, who has been part of the team at Heartland Health Care Center for eight years, said the facility works closely with patients to manage their pain during post-op rehabilitation, as this can be a major contributing factor to the length of their stay and recovery.
“The relief of the pain that the patient is experiencing is something that the whole team works together on, along with the patient’s input. For example, it may be that they have a different pain level in bed than when trying to move in therapy, so we work with the nurses to schedule pain medicine ahead of rehab sessions so that a patient’s pain relief has already kicked in when they come to therapy.”
When it comes to post-op care, it’s not just about the physical health of patients who are more elderly, it’s also about their mental well-being too.
“Moving out of your home, losing your independence, and requiring care in a facility after an operation can be very depressing for some. So we encourage them to work hard, we motivate them and tell them that the harder they work the sooner they can go home. If I asked any patient here today where they want to go, they wouldn’t tell me somewhere hot and out of this cold weather like you or I might, they would tell me that they want to go home,” said Lorrie.
The medical staff at Heartland Health Care Center uses a range of methods to help speed up the process of recovery for their patients. These include modality therapies.
“We have different modality therapies including diathermy ultrasound and electrical stimulation, which all help with pain and recovery after any kind of post-op care even with stroke patients and others,” said Lorrie.
“We’re constantly on the lookout for new technologies to help our patients in their recovery. Last year we purchased an omni VR machine, which is like an Xbox 360 game; it helps patients to do a lot more, a lot sooner post-op, in terms of their dexterity. We are also looking at a new biofeedback machine for dysphagia. We are always looking for new ways to help our patients.
“I’ve worked for lots of companies in my life and for me the main thing here that is really different, is that we provide in-house care which means that everyone in the building works for HCR ManorCare. With a lot of other facilities, staff are contracted by different companies, so I don’t feel they have the same investment in staff, training, and patients.”
Heartland Health Care Center caters to ages 20 and upward, but the most dominant age range is 65-plus.
“When it comes to post-op care, mostly we have patients who have undergone a hip or knee replacement, we also have some shoulders that may be completely rebuilt, too. We also care for patients who have suffered a stroke or people who may not be taking their meds correctly and need some care after hospitalization,” said Lorrie.
The percentage of post-op patients at Heartland Health Care Center varies from week-to-week. “It’s different at different times of the year,” said Lorrie. “With the cold weather and ice at the moment we may see more knee and hip replacements following falls or slips, for example. But it can be low at other times; there’s not really a general percentage of cases at any one time.”
Heartland Health Care Center has a range of patients in terms of their care needs, but it also specializes in certain areas of care, such as geriatric.
“A lot of our staff in the rehabilitation department have specialized for quite a long time in geriatric care. They’ve all been trained in modality and those are just some of our health care professionals on staff, we also have nurses who specialize in wound care, dietitians, and those who work in respiratory therapy — here we all look at different things for our patients.”
When it comes to post-op care, the recovery time can vary from patient-to-patient, explained Lorrie. “It depends on the situation; for someone who was pretty active in life before their operation and had a knee replacement, after two-to-three weeks they may be back home doing pretty much as before, and with less pain. However, hip replacements take a bit longer than that, but it all depends on the health of the patient. If the patient is retired, has had a couch potato lifestyle, and has then gone in for surgery, the recovery time will be longer.”
As well as providing patients with the help they need, the staff at Heartland Health Care Center are also able to provide the families of patients with support when it comes to post-op care.
“I think people who work in long-term health care, care about people and become counselors to the families by the very nature of the work they do. We talk to these families; we are honest with them and let them know exactly what the situation is. Sometimes the message we have to give them is a lot harder than other times, but we become the people who can talk to families and give them, not only what they need to hear, but what they have to hear. A lot of staff here at Heartland really have caring hearts so when a family member comes to us, we are generally very honest and answer questions as best we can.”
Lorrie said Heartland Health Care Center is a great place to work because of the people and patients, but it’s also the high success rates for its patients that is so rewarding.
“I love this job for so many reasons,” said Lorrie. “I love this population because I learn as much from them as they learn from me. I have done other things in the health care profession, but this is the only thing I have done where I love coming to work everyday.
“Our success rates with post-op patients are fantastic; if a patient is motivated then we become more motivated, and if they are not motivated, we help to motivate them. Success rates are very high here; we finally give them that place they want to go — home.”
Heartland Health Care Center is located on West Harrison Avenue in Decatur, Illinois, and provides individualized post-hospital skilled nursing care in a comfortable environment. Its clinical and therapy teams are experienced in providing specialized care focused on patients’ needs, interests and ability. This commitment results in a smoother and safer transition throughout their recuperation.
For more information, email DecaturIL@heartlandnursing.com, call 217-877-7333, or visit www.heartland-manorcare.com/decaturil.
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