In-Home Physical Therapy and Rehabilitative Services Continue Despite COVID-19
October 5, 2020
When COVID-19 first came to call in spring 2020, Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice (VNHCH) experienced a drop in client visits as patients were concerned about having people enter their homes. Over time, VNHCH and their patients realized that in-home care, such as physical therapy and other rehabilitative services, could safely be delivered following safety protocols. The agency wants to build awareness that rehabilitative services like physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy can still take place from the comfort of home. In fact most of their staff therapists say that it’s their preferred place to provide care due to its effectiveness and positive outcomes for their clients, even during COVID-19. During a time of pandemic, these home-based services are both invaluable and practical, as it allows the patient to receive care without leaving the house.
With October as National Physical Therapy Month, it’s even more meaningful to understand the importance of these clinicians. VNHCH Executive Director Sandy Ruka explained, “Physical therapy is a safe, effective alternative route to medication such as opioids for treatment of chronic pain conditions. October is a time to celebrate the wonderful work done by these health professionals to restore and maintain function, and improve people’s lives.”
Physical Therapist Marie Olsen, PT talked of the importance of the relationships she has built with clients. A native of Freedom, NH, she recently cared for a gentleman who knew her grandfather who had passed away before she was born. “One of my favorite parts of my job is when patients share their life experiences with me. I get to hear the amazing stories they share.”
Another benefit of seeing them in the home is that you see them in their own environment, building the confidence after an accident or illness. “It’s great to see them learn to trust themselves again.”
With 30 years experience, Marie explained that helping people is what motivates her as a physical therapist. “If you want to help people, physical therapy has so many opportunities. You can specialize, for instance, seeing pediatrics. Or you can be a general practitioner and see all ages. Home health is a perfect fit for me. You need experience and the ability to be creative.”
She enjoys working on her own, yet knowing she has the full support of the care team and the services at VNHCH.” She shared that the agency is very supportive, and COVID has not changed this, while some of their case management duties have shifted to phone calls and the use of apps like Zoom. Clinicians now often use HIPAA compliant devices to Zoom, call, text and email to stay in touch with each other.
Angela Nelson, PTA is part of that care team. She shared her perspective on what makes physical therapy such a meaningful career for her. As a busy mother of three juggling the challenges of parenting under COVID-19, Angela appreciates the schedule and flexibility that working for VNHCH provides. When the pandemic struck, she found her employer to be caring and flexible in allowing her to work out a schedule that allowed her to care for patients and her family. “Everyone in the agency was fantastic to work with. If there’s an issue you can go to any of them and they’ll help you out. It’s a great agency to be part of.”
From a clinical standpoint, physical therapy assistants work in tandem with the physical therapist, who does the admission and evaluation. Angela explained that the communication between therapists and nurses is excellent so everyone is aware of what is going with the patient. “We can be on the same page and talk about the personal goals for the patient. We all have a goal to get the patient back to their level prior to hospitalization or surgery”
She got interested in physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school. She finds the range of ages and conditions, as well as working locations, is what makes her job so interesting. “There are multiple opportunities. You can work in home care. You can go to a nursing home. You don’t get bored. There are lots of different avenues to take which is ideal.”
Physical therapists often work closely with other in-home rehabilitative clinicians like speech and occupational therapy. Tricia Mattox-Larson, SLP is a medical speech pathologist working for VNHCH. She works with patients on neurogenic based problems with speech, language, voice, swallowing and cognition. This includes those with degenerative diseases, dementia, Parkinsons and ALS.
After working in a variety of settings over her 20 year career, Tricia shared that in home health, the therapy setting is the most real of all. “Today I saw a man with neuropathy, and he can’t swallow. I could go right to his kitchen and see where and how he eats and drinks, and his wife was there. It’s the perfect place to help people.”
She encouraged others considering a career in rehabilitation services to pursue it. “You can work in a variety of settings, not just the city. You can go into schools, in-home or medical facilities. Up here you have to be a jack of all trades. I can lean on others when we need them.”
Echoing what her fellow therapists stated, she enjoys the autonomy of working as an in-home clinicians with lots of support back in the office. “It’s a fantastic place to work. We love the services we provide.I love the people I work with. There is so much support. When COVID first hit, they were 100% supportive. It’s the best I’ve ever had!”
For more information on rehabilitative services at Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice of Carroll County, call 603-356-7006 or visit them online at www.vnhch.org.