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Working with Patients in Assisted Living Facilities

By: Cindi Semken, PTA (Wilmington region)

It's National Assisted Living Week!

At Well Care Home Health, we partner with some of the best Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) in North Carolina to get patients back on the path to wellness. As a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), I'm part of a team of clinicians that works each week to improve patients' quality of life.

I see plenty of patients in ALFs throughout our Wilmington service area that need both physical and emotional rehabilitation. Physical and emotional well-being are vital areas of healthy living. So how do PTAs like me help patients in Assisted Living Facilities return to full health?

#1 - Physically.

We help patients complete simple tasks like walking. Depending on the patient's condition, walking can feel like a chore. So a Well Care Physical Therapist develops a customized care plan for each, individual patient based on doctors' orders and the patient's personal goals. My job is to partner with the patient and their family to execute this care plan.

If a patient wants to get on and off the bus, run errands or go shopping again, I work with her on strength training and balance routines. Some patients want to resume taking fun, exercise classes at the Assisted Living Facility (ALF). So we'll kick things up a bit in our balance and strength training to make this patient capable of taking those classes on her own. 

We want patients to be as independent as possible so they can enjoy everything they once did before. We also educate patients' family members on our techniques, so they're fully aware of the care plan and what the end goal is. Our clinicians follow the Otago Exercise program, which is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

#2 - Emotionally.

A patient's physical well-being directly correlates to her emotional health, too. That's why clinicians truly need to listen to their patients. Physical ailments may deter patients from attending social events at the ALF. This is where it gets emotional and personal. Patients may reveal things they've never revealed before. Some are embarrassed to leave their rooms at the ALF simply because of their ailment. We don't want this for our patients!

It's important for clinicians to remain positive and be as emotionally supportive as possible. I've heard questions like, "Is this my last Christmas with my family?" Or, "will I ever be able to dance again?"

At Well Care, we strive to nurture patients' emotions and spiritual needs, and connect with them on a deep level. For me, this is one of the most meaningful parts of my job. Compassion is key!

The great part about working with patients in ALFs is the ability to collaborate with my colleagues across other functions, like Speech and Occupational Therapy. I'll connect with my Speech Therapy colleagues and see if there's anything I can do from a physical therapy standpoint that will improve the patient's condition. It may be as simple as getting the patient to talk more, if s/he had a recent stroke, or ramping up the patient's balance and strength training to help the Occupational Therapy Assistant with bathing tasks.

The Well Care team takes a full scope approach to care and meets patients where they are in these Assisted Living Facilities.

There's no greater joy than seeing my patients progress back to full health, giving them the confidence to resume their lives as they see fit and without fear.

If you or your loved one is at an Assisted Living Facility and needs Home Health services, call Well Care today!

September is also Falls Prevention Month. If you know someone at risk of falling, contact us today to arrange for a Physical Therapy referral.

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