(Photos by Jill Bock, Staff)
After a bad fall, Sullivan was paralyzed from the waist down. A patient at Sells Rest Home, the feisty Sullivan began therapy with the staff of Rehab America LLC. In the past few months, he has regained his ability to get around independently, primarily with a walker, gained weight and hopes to return home soon.
"It works - that is the best thing I can say. You may not like it, but if you do what they say, it works," said Sullivan about his therapy and therapists.
The comments brought a smile to the face of Amy Dunn, executive director of Rehab America LLC. "We are having so much success with what we are doing, it is really exciting," she said.
Now in its second year, Rehab America is beginning to expand its operations. Currently, the St. Louis-based company provides rehabilitation services to nursing homes in Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, including Sells Rest Home at Matthews where the staff has worked since September 2006.
Dunn proudly recounts the success of other patients after working with the rehab staff.
"The residents of Sells have seen major improvements in their quality of life and the amount of personal and patient-specific rehabilitation that they have received. There have been several residents who have been able to return to their homes and prior living arrangements, not to mention the dozens who have become completely independent in ambulation, ADLs and cognitive tasks as a result of the quality therapy they are receiving," she said.
The success, Dunn continued, is a cooperative effort of the staff of Rehab America working closely with the staff at Sells Nursing Home. Together they have establish specialized programs such as dealing with weight loss, cognitive issues and behavior modification.
"We are working as a team with the facility and we work well together because we both believe in putting patients first. When you put the patients first, everything else falls into place," she said.
The amount and type of therapy depends on the individual, explained Dunn. Some are able to return to their prior level of functioning in a few weeks while some require extended therapy.
With a current case load of 18, the staff typically works Monday through Friday, however weekend hours are arranged if needed. Most patients are seen five times a week.
According to Dunn, another plus provided by Rehab America is the company's on-site management which works with facilities to mesh billing.
Also the company works with the facility's staff to provide training which they can use with patients' restorative needs.
Everyone's goal with all the patients, she said, is to get them functioning to the same level they were before their injury or illness. The Rehab America staff also volunteers time for patients who otherwise would not be able to afford rehabilitation services, which Dunn said is also a part of the company's patient-first emphasis.
To accommodate the new rehabilitation service, Sells recently created a larger therapy room. While an open house is tentatively set for May 25 to officially open the facility, the staff and their rehab clients are already making good use of the room.
The room includes a variety of exercise equipment such as an incumbent bike, weight machine, parallel bars and an electric stimulator, which is used with pain management.
A kitchen area is used to work with patients who will soon be returning home. Here they practice their meal preparation and other skills needed to maintain their independence.
As part of the company's effort to meet local needs, Dunn said they plan to obtain an outpatient license so the therapists can work with individuals not in the nursing home but in need of therapy. Dunn said this could be adults with work-related injuries or children dealing with a sports-related injury.
"That way they could stay within their own community and receive the therapy they need," said Dunn.
Over the past several months a bond has developed between the rehab staff and the patients and staff at Sells, according to Dunn. The rehab staff sponsored an Easter Egg hunt for the staff and residents the week leading up to Easter both for fun and to raise awareness about occupational therapy.
More events, both fun and informational, are planned as well.
All, Dunn explained, are designed to meet the company's philosophy: "Therapy for living your life today and exceeding your goals for tomorrow."