Reposted from The Pioneer Network Newsletter
Lisa Milliken serves as the Director of Education for Select Rehab, where she researches evidence based practices and develops continuing education courses on current hot topics for therapeutic intervention in the post-acute setting. Her goal is to assist this field in the prevention of unnecessary re-hospitalizations and to help therapists deliver the highest level of rehab practices for the most optimal clinical outcomes.
“If my therapist asks me to do something that makes sense to help me achieve I want to do, then I would be motivated to do it. It would make sense to me. But how is this bicycle thing going to help me work in my garden or wash my clothes? That doesn’t make sense, so why should I have to do them?”
These are often the thoughts of residents in a community’s rehab department who are there to regain a prior function. I’m reminded of a story shared by a colleague about one man (Tom) who was in short-term rehab following his stroke. His goal was to regain function of his left arm and leg to go home and resume work on his farm. Initially Tom did not like doing the same old exercises, which were assigned to him by the physical therapist to improve his leg strength. And he surely didn’t enjoy the tabletop pegboard and exercise putty his occupational therapist gave him to work on. His comment to all of this was, “This is ridiculous, why I am doing this?” So they stopped and asked “What would you like to be able to do again?” To this he responded, “Well, I want to go home and get on my tractor and get back to work!” So the therapist called Tom’s son and they arranged for the tractor to be brought to Tom’s senior rehab community and parked it in the parking lot. Every therapy task from that point included goals to get on and operate the tractor. This meaningful therapy had a purpose and Tom’s progress then increased dramatically.
Each elder’s rehab goal is different. We should not assume that everyone wants to walk 100 feet and improve standing balance to 15 minutes. There may be no meaning or purpose to such goals. But if we ask them, they will often tell us exactly what they want. It may be that they want to sweep their own floors, go get their mail or walk to the living room to visit with other elders by themselves. Or maybe it’s to independently work in the kitchen because they’re a chef and frequently volunteer at a local shelter to help with meals.
A successful meaningful therapy task includes the following components:
• Person-centered and individualized
o Based on preferences
o Meaningful versus rote
o Graded to abilities
• Volume and content are appropriate to skill level
• Therapy and nursing team members’ attitudes are supportive of the elder’s goals
According to a study by Port and others in 2011, we can effectively solicit an elder’s preferences through a series of steps, including the systematic narrative history of activities enjoyed prior to admission and a direct interview of the elder about activity preferences and available choices. We can then identify health-related or contextual obstacles and develop novel interventions to re-engage each elder in their preferred task. Historically, traditional therapy would focus on impairment-based treatment approaches. And components of such approaches may still be necessary and beneficial at specific points of treatment, such as to collect baseline data for range of motion, strength and activity tolerance.
But functional-based treatment approaches should also be included in the elder’s skilled plan of care. Each elder needs to be challenged and tested in functional skills that will be required of him/her in the following skilled rehab, whether that be within a community setting such as a nursing home or assisted living, , or in their own home. This approach prepares the client for the specific activities and skill sets which they will need to attain their optimal level of functioning in any setting, and where possible, to successfully transition and remain in their home without the potential risks.
The recently updated Rules of Participation for Long-Term Care now cites the resident’s preferences as a requirement in many of the codes of federal regulations. For instance, the Resident’s rights section includes this statement:
“A facility must provide a person-appropriate program of activities that should match the skills, abilities, needs and preferences of each resident with the demands of the activity and the characteristics of the physical, social and cultural environments.”
Furthermore, payer sources such as Medicare and various managed care and insurance companies stress the importance of quality outcomes in a timely manner. So it should be of no surprise that our detailed graphs and charts of outcome data per client shows better and faster improvements as a result of the functional based therapy where we focused on the residents’ personal goals.
Such regulatory and outcome requirements further support our priority to first seek the resident’s input regarding their preference and then help them to achieve their unique goals. Whether we’re working to get Tom back on his tractor, helping Louise to return to her kitchen, or supporting the best quality of life possible as defined by each resident in a community, we can cater each therapy session to their unique goals and the result is a win-win for us all.