Program helps quick return from hospital

February 03, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - After Gladys Baker tore ligaments in her leg in a fall last October, she knew she wouldn't be able to return home and care for herself after her brief hospital stay.

Though the 74-year-old Greencastle, Pa., woman didn't require surgery, doctors at Waynesboro Hospital told her she'd need rest and therapy - difficult orders to carry out when you're living alone.

Luckily, a new program at the hospital was ready to be tried out. Baker became the first patient treated through the hospital's Continuous Assistive Restorative Environment.


The CARE program is for patients preparing to leave the hospital for home, said Nancy Bowling, manager of the hospital's medical surgical department and co-coordinator of the program with Eva Stenger, a registered nurse.

"The goal is to get the patient back to their home or back to the situation that they were used to,'' Bowling said. "And to get them back to the level of performance or function they were used to."

Since October, more than a dozen patients have been through the CARE program, where patients recover in a familiar environment with the same doctors, nurses and hospital staff as in the first stage of hospitalization.

"It's better for the patients and families," Bowling said. "Patients do want to stay in their community hospital. They like to keep their own doctors, and their families are closer."

Part of the rehabilitation department, the CARE facility provides patients with an environment similar to what they may encounter at home, including a staircase, kitchen and bathroom. The program is set up primarily for orthopedic patients, including those who've had total hip or knee replacements, Bowling said.

Patients learn how to maneuver in a wheelchair, with a walker or on crutches. The program teaches them how to operate safely in the kitchen, how to dress themselves, plus how to handle stairs and other aspects of daily living, Bowling said.

The program is also designed to teach patients and their families about medication management, pain control and nutrition. Patients can also receive physical, occupational, speech or respiratory therapy through CARE.

"It was a big help," said Baker, who learned how to put her shoes on, bathe and get into the bathroom with her walker. Therapists also gave her exercises to do at home.

"We encourage patients to become more independent,'' Bowling said. "They're encouraged to do as much as they can on their own."

Without the CARE program, Baker would've been discharged from the hospital after three or four days, Bowling said.

"That's one of the advantages of this program,'' Bowling said. "It afforded her (Baker) to stay in the hospital. It gave her the healing time that she needed.''

Because most insurance companies won't allow patients to stay in hospitals for an extended time, many patients would move to nursing homes until they were able to go home, Bowling said.

The CARE program, which is recognized by Medicare, doesn't stop at the hospital. Once patients are discharged, a CARE worker makes follow-up visits every week for the first month and once a month for six months, Bowling said.

Patients who aren't managing well at home can come back to the program, Bowling said.

Baker, now at home, said she's improving and has given up her walker for a cane. "I really appreciate everything they've done for me," she said.

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