By Alexander Germanis
The English poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island.” In that one opening line, he accurately expressed the human need of interconnectivity.
To rely on others in order to function healthily and happily is a fact of life; unfortunately, it is a fact that sometimes becomes more painfully obvious as we age. As the years advance, the body and even the mind can turn against an individual, and it is only with outside help that many can continue to function with a hope of happiness in their lives.
To bring that functioning back is the purpose of Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community’s Rehab and Therapy Services.
Help is in the neighborhood
Just west of Chenoa proper, in peaceful countryside surroundings, is the Meadows Retirement Community. Within the community, several therapists and nurses engage in a labor of love to help the ailing of the community regain their functionality and independence.
Occupational Therapy Assistant/Program Manager Melissa “Missy” Rich oversees their rather extensive rehab department — a profession she was all but born into. “My grandmother’s background was as a therapist in Gibson City, so I would go with her to work when I was younger and help on the weekends there,” she recalls.
Attending school for occupational therapy, Missy has since been working in the specialty for 25 years. “With my love for geriatrics, I wanted to be with the geriatric population,” she says, “so, I’ve been in skilled nursing facilities for about 23 years and managing for about 15 of that.”
Specializing in short and long-term rehab, the therapists at Meadows always have an eye toward restoring functionality, whether it’s taking two weeks to get a resident back to being able to tackle their activities of daily living or engaging with a resident on a much longer basis in order to help them walk with adaptive equipment.
“For short-term, we work on making sure they’re able to get dressed by themselves, bathe, ambulate,” Missy explains. “Of course, we check all the home safety features of their house — make sure everything is safe for them to return home.”
“For long-term care,” she continues, “we work more on getting them to their highest possible functional level within the facility and from there transition them to a restorative program, which is a free service offered by Meadows. We have three CNAs who are certified in the restorative programs and they see the resident two or three times a week to maintain that level the skilled therapists have set with them.”
Inpatient therapy at Meadows is broken down into three main categories or disciplines: occupational, physical, and speech.
Physical therapy is fairly straightforward, the aspects of which can apply to many younger people just as they do for the older generation, focusing on gait, ambulation, balance, and strengthening the bigger muscles.
“Occupational Therapy focuses more on the activities of daily living and getting them back to their independence using adaptive equipment if necessary,” Missy explains. “We also work on upper body strengthening and fine motor coordination, such as that used for writing or picking up a utensil to eat.”
Finally, Missy explains the purposes of speech therapy. “A lot of people think, ‘They’re just working on my speech, but I talk just fine.’ But, we also work on cognitive deficits and anything that relates to memory.”
Speech therapy also includes retraining a resident to swallow if they are having trouble chewing and find themselves choking frequently. In such cases, diet downgrades and upgrades may be in order, and the certified therapists focus on exercising the throat, using VitalStim, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, to get the resident back to eating safely.
With thought and care
Perhaps one of the greatest crimes perpetrated on the aging is the onset of dementia. At Meadows, a concentrated effort is put into bringing the benefits of therapy to those who are feeling the unwanted effects of this debilitating condition.
“All the therapists here are trained in dementia therapy,” Missy says. “We have seen quite a few people who have come here and their regular therapists have said they couldn’t get anything out of the person. Well, there are different approaches and techniques you can use to achieve your goals.”
“For instance, with the older generation, they have hung clothes on a clothesline for years, so instead of saying to a resident, ‘Hold this weight and do 10 repetitions,’ we may put weights on their hands and have them hang clothes on a clothesline we put out,” Missy explains. “They cannot process ‘lift this weight 10 times,’ but because they know how to put clothes on a line, they [perform] an automatic movement. That way they do the movements they need to.”
For some men who were once used to working with their hands, they are sometimes asked to perform functional tasks, such as putting nuts, screws, or bolts onto a board in order to engage their fine motor coordination.
Each resident’s work history and past interests are taken into account in order to incorporate those interests into their treatment.
Healing all wounds
With the myriad wounds one can get as one ages — vascular, diabetic, traumatic, pressure, peripheral, etc. — wound care is an essential element in taking care of the aging.
Wound Care Coordinator Betsy Franklin sort of “fell into” wound treatment after a long career as a nurse. “I was scared of wounds really. But, a facility I was in needed a wound nurse, they dropped it in my plate, and it became my baby,” she says. “I got licensed in it, and it became my specialty.”
As for wound treatments, Betsy says they begin almost always in an exploratory fashion. From there, “a lot of the dressings we use are based on the tissue type and the exudate of the wounds. We use calcium alginate, which is an awesome dressing, and we use a lot of Xeroform for our traumatic wounds.”
Before Betsy and the wound physician, Dr. Stancu, came to Meadows, residents who needed their wounds tended to often had to be sent elsewhere. “To send a resident from a facility to a wound clinic and back is very harsh on a resident,” Betsy points out. Conversely, being able to treat them in-house has a plethora of benefits. “It decreases the risk of infection, the risk of transport, they don’t have to leave their own home; it’s great.”
“We have done really well at Meadows,” she proudly shares. “Right now, we are sitting at one facility-acquired wound and two community-acquired wounds. We heal the wounds and do it pretty fast.”
Closer than you think
A retirement community may not seem like the place to go for outpatient therapy, but Meadows offers that as well.
“If someone has a qualifying hospital stay, they can come in under Medicare A,” says Missy. “Everything is paid for and they have up to 100 days of skilled services as long as they are participating in therapy. Whenever we are done with therapy and they have met all their goals, then they are able to go back home.”
Outpatient therapy includes all of the same therapeutic disciplines available on an inpatient basis: occupational, physical, and speech.
“Along with outpatient,” Missy continues, “if people come in for short-term rehab and want to meet with the same therapist, they are welcome to come back as an outpatient, which is better than home health where they have to start all over with a new therapist.”
No place like home
“I travel all over, as I manage quite a few rehab departments in skilled nursing facilities,” Missy shares. “But, our therapy staff does not have a turnover rate. My therapists have been here from anywhere between five to 15 years.”
Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community, therefore, is a home to more than just the residents who live there. The interconnectivity built between the staff and the residents make it feel less like therapists and patients and more like family taking care of family. No one is an island; no one is alone.
Meadows offers senior living options, including independent living, skilled nursing care, memory care, respite care, and inpatient or outpatient Achieve Wellness and Rehab Therapy. Call Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa at 309-747-3635 to learn more about Meadows, or visit www.MeadowsCommunities.org.