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After Therapy and Restorative Ends

May 17, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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My first experience at a rehabilitation facility in the 70s surprised me because others and I were able to get therapy for long periods of time. Some patients received therapy for months. But that was back in the days of Cadillac Medicare. Today rehab patients who come here must have attainable therapy goals that can be reached in a short period of time.

When I arrived here 13 years ago, I did receive therapy. My initial goals were to switch me to plastic inside the shoe, below the knee braces that kept my ankles from turning. Therapy walked me initially just to see how I was able to get around. But my therapy did not last very long. In fact what took the longest was finding shoes to wear with my new braces. But that is a story for another time.

During my first few weeks I was able to transfer sometimes with one person. But one day I sort of missed my mark and had to be lowered to the floor. After that two aides had to transfer me at all times. That greatly affected my independence and autonomy and required me to wait longer to get necessary care.

After therapy ended, I was turned over to Restorative. One Restorative aide was impressed with my motivation and took me under her wing. She asked if she could put me on that therapy room's exercise mat several times a week for range of motion exercises and stretching. These sessions greatly helped me. I was more limber, felt better, and I enjoyed the natural socialization that occurs during a session. I felt like a participant in improving myself.

After a few years my Restorative friend moved away. I negotiated with therapists and Restorative aides to get range of motion exercises on the mat whenever I could. Some Restorative aides did not feel comfortable transferring me. One therapist even said that my transfers were too dangerous. I replied to him, "Life is dangerous. It is fatal." But if a restorative aide was reluctant or could not find a helper, I did not get my exercises. But I worked as hard as I could to get them consistently. I felt that they were important to me physically and mentally.

Over the years I noticed that some long-term care residents got more walking or exercise time than others. Usually these residents were eager to walk. But I still did not understand why the delegation of time was not more democratic. When the Restorative program added new residents, those who had been in the program longer had their sessions shortened. Residents became upset, disgusted, and depressed.

Then the Restorative program changed. Residents were exercised in a group whenever possible. That made sense for most people but it did not really work for me. I could raise my legs some on my own. But I could not raise my arms without assistance. I went to the sessions but my heart was not really in it. I felt that my exercise life was being left behind.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...