Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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It’s About Personal Choices

  October 06, 2016
By Lori Lovely

After a hospital stay, many patients and their families ask: what next? For some, the best answer may be a short-term stay at Heddington Oaks, a non-profit skilled care home located in West Peoria.

Owned by Peoria County, Heddington Oaks is not the typical care facility. “Located on 13 acres in a residential neighborhood, the 214-bed facility provides care for people who need short-term rehabilitation after a hospital stay. In addition to the “hospital-to-home” rehabilitation unit, it also features a memory care wing and accommodations for long-term care for those with special medical needs,” says Jess McMullin, communications specialist.

“We have three levels of care in one building,” adds Steve Richter, coordinator of marketing and admissions. The rehab-to-home unit is for all ages. “They come for therapy after a hospital stay and go home in two to three weeks.”

The memory care unit features 80 beds. “It’s a large unit with four sub-units that are grouped according to their level of need, from mild dementia to severe,” Richter elaborates. Trained staff keep residents engaged and active. “They stimulate their minds and bodies.” In addition to the typical therapies, the memory care specialists find music and pet therapy particularly beneficial for dementia patients.

The third level of care is traditional senior care: long-term stays for elderly people who need help with daily living activities. “We provide 24-hour nursing supervision and assistance,” Richter indicates.

The difference
Skilled nursing care is available for all residents around the clock, with a specially trained registered nurse overseeing each unit. In addition, a nurse practitioner is onsite five days a week, and a medical director visits weekly. Routine medical care is supplemented by visits from an ophthalmologist, podiatrist, and local hospice providers.

As the only nursing home in the county with a full-time registered dietitian, Heddington Oaks offers nutritious choices at every meal. Residents may select the daily featured entrée or opt for an alternative choice from a standard menu. All meals include an entrée with potato and vegetable choices. Customized meal plans are also available.

An activities department plans activities that engage the minds and exercise the bodies of the residents, with the goal of helping them remain as independent as possible. “Activities are based on what the resident can do,” Richter specifies. “We have a wide variety of activities.” Daily activities include bingo, crafts, table games, puzzles, movies, stories, religious services, and exercise programs. Games and live entertainment and music are some of the more popular pursuits. Outings to special events, parks, and shopping are also arranged on a seasonal basis. Volunteers donate their time at Heddington Oaks to help make these activities happen.

Social Services staff are available seven days a week to assist with insurance submissions, counseling, scheduling appointments, referrals to outside agencies, and other tasks. “They arrange follow-up doctor visits, therapy sessions, and home health care,” Richter lists. “They make sure things are safe at home by working with the family and evaluating the home.”

“The social workers help determine discharge needs, such as what equipment for the home is required,” adds Caroline Newell, physical therapist and program director for the therapy department. “That could include a shower bench, wheelchair, walker, toilet seat riser…”

Citing the old adage “you’re only as good as your staff,” Richter says the staff at Heddington Oaks, many of whom are long-term employees, is committed to residents’ care. “Everyone here has [a big heart] and personally cares about our residents.”

Returning home
Equipped with state-of-the-art safety features, Heddington Oaks offers residents a choice of a private room or a “T-room,” which features a wall dividing a double room for privacy, plus 80 rooms in the memory unit.

“People want choices in life: where they live, food, activities,” Richter says. “We give as many choices as possible.” The residents at Heddington Oaks make decisions about their health plan, diet, daily schedule, and social activities.

Choices empower people. The strategy of providing choices is designed to make the transition from hospital to home — or to long-term residence — easier by allowing patients to retain as much independence as possible.

When residents arrive directly from the hospital, they typically complete physical, occupational, or speech therapy, depending on their needs. Physical therapists work with patients to recover from injuries or other medical conditions, including stroke therapy and joint replacement rehabilitation. Occupational therapists assess the patient’s ability to get out of bed, walk, get up and down, get dressed, and other daily activities. Speech therapists evaluate how well they can swallow and check reflexes.

After evaluation, the therapy department develops a comprehensive rehabilitative program that includes exercises designed to build strength and balance. Occupational therapy focuses on basic daily tasks, meal prep, and other activities such as gardening. Speech therapy includes learning which foods diminish choking.

A team of eight works with patients six to seven days a week, depending on what their insurance allows and what they can tolerate. “Some do better with a day off,” Newell notes. “We monitor their progress each day, each week, and see what they can tolerate.”

Families are encouraged to visit and to watch a therapy session. This further aids in the transition to home because family members view the importance of therapy and may be able to assist at home. Pets are also welcome visitors to Heddington Oaks because the staff recognizes their value in boosting morale.

The transition to home after rehab is as brief as possible; the average length of stay at Heddington Oaks is 12 days. “We have an aggressive therapy department,” Richter indicates. “They get people better and get them home.”

“To qualify for residence at the rehab center, a person must complete a three-midnight stay in the hospital and be referred by a doctor,” Richter explains. Medicare covers a 20-day stay at the facility. On Day 21, the patient either goes home or incurs a co-pay to stay.
If at all possible, the patient returns home well before the 20-day stay has expired. However, that doesn’t mean they are rushed. “We determine when they’re ready to go,” Newel explains. “There’s no set time. It depends on their evaluation and their progress. Some need extra time to heal. Our goal is to get them home and keep them home.”

In other words, as Richter says, their goal is “no return admissions.” That’s one reason they are provided with a home exercise program that will help them maintain the ability they achieved in therapy. Another is to help the client be completely independent without a walker or cane, if possible. “They learn exercises in therapy to do at home to continue their progress.”

Transitioning home through Heddington Oaks makes a “big difference” in a person’s recovery, Newell insists. “We see a 75 to 80 percent improvement over going home directly. People tend to do nothing if they go [directly] home. There’s not enough support at home. When they’re here, they see healthcare professionals more often. They benefit from socialization. Meals are provided and medications are regulated.” Some even establish long-lasting friendships.

“We want them to have a successful return to home,” Richter concludes. What’s next once they go home? Opportunities for even more personal choices.

For more information about Heddington Oaks, or to schedule a tour of the facility, please contact them at 309-636-3600, or online at
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October 06, 2016
Keywords:  Feature Story

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