New therapy unit aims to make residents more active

The Pilgrim Place Physical Therapy Unit, a haven for seniors seeking renewed strength and spirit, recently received a little rehabilitation of its own.

After a fourth-month renovation, the retirement community’s Health Services Center debuted its brand-new physical therapy facility, a modern accommodation twice the size of the previous rehabilitation space.  

The opening of the updated therapy unit earlier this month realizes a two-year dream for the service center, made possible through grant funding, according to Rehab Manager Marie McKinney.

As physical therapy facilitators continue to enhance the quality of life of Pilgrim Place’s patients, the new and improved center provides the means to execute that goal to a greater degree. Facility enhancements include outdoor and indoor exercise areas—putting green included—exercise machines, resistance training and a new occupational therapy room that models a studio apartment for use in therapy activities.

“Our new center provides our patients with the environment they need to feel challenged, with the proper equipment and a good team of therapists to support their well-being,” Ms. McKinney said. “Without the hospital setting, we are preparing our patients for the most important task ahead of them, regaining their independence, and their most important job, that of living.”

At any given day, sometimes seven says a week, the center sees a rotation of about 20 patients, performing strength training drills or patiently waiting their turn in the wide expanse of the center. This wouldn’t have been the case before the renovation, when the unit was just a series of adjoined rooms without a central lobby.  

The renovation presented its own challenges. Without a designated space for their clients, therapists were working with their patients in the health center bistro, a small outlet across the hall from the construction.

“The space was very small, not large enough for the high volume of patients we receive,” said John McKinney, physical therapist assistant.  

The remodel solved that problem. As the construction crews moved in, the walls came down, providing the wide open space therapists sought along with room for new appliances, like a set of parallel bars and mats that are electronically adjustable and full-length mirrors to aid patients during therapy.

The spacious site was not only designed to accommodate modern equipment. It was also modeled to resemble patients’ homes, preparing them for life after therapy. An outdoor patio, garden and kitchen with varying ground textures helps re-establish the seniors’ balance. A bathroom with levers and handholds helps them regain independence. And a studio apartment aids patients in preparing for the daily duties of home life—getting up and out of bed, making a cup of coffee and placing dishes in the dishwasher, among other tasks. The kitchen table provides the place for patients to discuss their progress and concerns.

It is this personal contact and attention to detail that Esther Stone believes has helped contribute to the progress she has made at the rehabilitation center. Ms. Stone lost her independence two months ago when a stroke took away her ability to walk or control much of the left side of her body. Being an active woman who enjoys walking, dancing and visiting the seniors at her son Brad’s assisted living facility in north Claremont, Ms. Stone’s inability to perform the most rudimentary tasks came as a shock.

By the recommendation of her son, Ms. Stone began taking morning and afternoon therapy sessions at the Harrison Avenue facility. With the help of Mr. McKinney and Assistant Occupational Therapist Carlo Marcelo, she is working her way back to the freedom she prizes. While Ms. Stone still relies on a wheelchair and walker to get about, she is pleased to have the feeling returning to her face and her hand. She looks forward to continuing to work with her therapists in the new center.

“The quality of care here is exceptional,” Ms. Stone said. “The way [the therapists] talk and relate to you helps make the difference.”

An exceptional group of therapists along with the interdisciplinary teamwork of nurses and social workers helps create a productive environment for both staff and patients, says Ms. McKinney. She is pleased to now have a facility to match.

“We will have the ability to see more residents and can hopefully even open an outpatient program that could be open to the whole community,” Ms. McKinney said.  “We are very blessed.”

—Beth Hartnett


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