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Fresh Air Magazine

Wide Open Spaces

Patients benefit from new rehab center, team approach

Linda Houser likes her workout time, and she must have her Whitney Houston. "I love it," she said while working the upper body fitness machine. "To be able to get up out of bed, be with other people, it's great."

The music doesn't hurt either. Today, Houston and upbeat R&B could be heard as background to the chatter of therapists and other patients.

When Rockcastle Regional expanded its Respiratory Care Center in 2017 to 127 beds, rehabilitation services moved to what seemed like wide open spaces.

The department went from 460 square feet in the old space to 2,300 square feet, an improvement that is accommodating better equipment, more services, and better outcomes.

Rehab is especially important to patients who are on ventilator care, said Emily Valentine, rehabilitation services manager.

"Patients often have been hospitalized for months when they get here," Valentine said. "They have to re-start basic functions--learn to sit up, build muscle that has been lost from inactivity, and re-learn breathing techniques."

Rockcastle Regional's long-term rehabilitation department is staffed by eight therapists and consists of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology.

"One of the great things about therapies is everyone overlaps yet has their own important part," Valentine said.

For example, a recent patient with a brain injury had weakness on her left side. While the physical therapy assistant helped her stand next to the stove in the simulated kitchen, the speech pathologist helped her with sequence of tasks. Meanwhile, the occupational therapist built up and lengthened a spoon to prevent the risk of burn. "So we globally help with everything, yet each has our own tasks," Valentine said.

The enhanced space allows plenty of room for that care to be delivered. More space means more equipment and better privacy because there are multiple rooms. It also provides room for family to observe therapy before patients are discharged, allowing them to be more informed and more engaged in their loved one's care.

But one of the biggest advantages of having the space goes back to what Linda says -- to be with other people, to be reminded that they're not alone in facing their challenges, to enjoy themselves.

"We try to make it fun down here," Valentine said. Television and music came with the new space as well. Proven to be a mood stimulator, music creates an upbeat atmosphere, but it also increases language exposure for those dealing with speech/language challenges.

Some of the best sounds are those of patients interacting with each other as they exercise. "It's rewarding to see them share common ground," Valentine said, "encouraging one another, making friends, and celebrating their successes. When they celebrate, we celebrate."

Respiratory Care Center

Fresh Air Magazine

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