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Gaining strength through LTC physical therapy

July 4, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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In the 14-plus years that I have lived in the nursing home I have had physical therapy several times. But I have not had it nearly as much as most people would probably think. Medicare allocates a certain amount each year for residents who need physical therapy. It is not the sum that was allowed back in the 70s when I could get outpatient physical therapy three times a week for an almost unlimited amount of time.

Recently I begged for physical therapy because chemotherapy and radiation made me weaker. I had two incidents during transfers where I had to be lowered to the floor. There was much hoopla about these ‘near falls’ and I felt they were blown out of proportion.

When the therapists evaluated me, I asked what my physical therapy regimen would be. They told me it would be up to what I wanted. The first day the therapists had me stand. I could tell that they were both nervous because only one of them had assisted with my transfers.

I was able to stand well but it was apparent that both therapists were very leery. It was clear that the way that I stand frightened them. I said I wanted to bend and straighten my knees while standing, but they were blocking them as I tried. I said they had to trust my ability. However, I can understand that they did not want me to fall and get hurt.

Yesterday I asked if I could stand in the therapy room's parallel bars. The therapists agreed and we headed to the therapy room. I pulled up on to the parallel bars’ ramp. I told the therapist I wanted to stand, turn toward the parallel bar, hold on, and then bend my knees. But since I had not done that for very long time, they would not let me try.

Instead, they suggested I only stand. The therapists decided they wanted an aide to assist them with me. I asked them to get a particular aide who has been here since before I came. She is confident in my ability and she also knows when my strength is not up to par. That aide and one therapist held on to my gait belt to assure I could not fall. Then the other therapist held on to my forearms and asked me to stand. I stood right up without help from the aide or the other therapist. The therapist was astounded that I could stand so well. Her eyes were wide open as was her mouth. I said, "Let me do it again,” then I proceeded to stand again successfully.

We did a couple more stands with the therapist straightening my back which allowed me to stand more erect. It certainly felt good to see the ceiling from a standing position.

Afterwards I felt so much better. I realized that over the years the aides' haste to transfer me and move on to the next resident had not allowed me to stand long enough to keep the strength up in my legs.

Therapy will assist me to improve my strength and allow the therapists to be more confident in my ability. Then they can share their knowledge with the other aides and nurses.

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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...