By Rebecca Heath, director of admissions and marketing
Irene Menkveld came to Life Care Center of Evergreen, Colorado, for therapy with the intent of transitioning to long-term care.
She had been doing therapy at another facility prior to our rehab team taking over. During the initial therapy assessment, it was clear that both son James and mother had accepted a new baseline of being bedbound.
Menkveld was no longer interested in getting out of bed, sitting in a chair, getting around in a wheelchair or walking again. Her desire was to remain comfortable; therefore, the therapy department established a baseline goal to promote bed mobility and positioning to minimize skin breakdown and prevent further debilitation.
James wished the therapy team good luck in embarking on therapy with his mom as Menkveld adamantly disliked doing therapy at the previous facility. The word “therapy” was replaced with the phrase, “Let’s work on some gentle exercises,” which she was agreeable to do.
Menkveld ate very little and consequently was lethargic and weak. Her ability to tolerate exercise was further complicated by pain in her leg and back. It took quite a bit of encouragement for her to participate.
One day, Menkveld decided that she wanted to walk again. The therapy team now had a carrot to dangle as motivation, but realistically this was a near-impossible goal. She had been bedbound for over a month without hardly moving her ankles. But if the patient had that desire, the therapy team was going to do Whatever It Takes And Then Some.
Daily, the therapy team and certified nursing assistants gently worked on sitting at the edge of the bed and helping Menkveld into the wheelchair. Next, she stood to stretch her ankles. Then, after two months, she walked.
Each milestone was celebrated, from eight steps in the parallel bars to walking 24, 32 and then 64 steps. Menkveld is now able to walk over 400 feet with a walker and actually looks forward to her therapy sessions.
“Irene is an inspiration and reminds me of why I chose the therapy field,” said Eling Miller, rehabilitation director.
Menkveld has a contagious smile and now asks associates if she can still stay at our facility even if she has made such progress. Even James has noticed a marked transformation in his mother – a transformation that goes well beyond her physical abilities. She is much more optimistic about life!