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Therapy can involve doing daily tasks

May 31, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

It took Dot Canby 80 years to make her first batch of brownies, but less than a year to regain strength in her arms as a result of performing such tasks after health problems left her immobilized last June.

On a recent morning, the Heartland of Martinsburg rehab patient worked at stirring a brownie mix, which was later passed along to another rehab patient, who - with help from a therapist -poured oil into the batter.

"When I came in here, I couldn't move my arms," said Canby, who uses a wheelchair. She then dropped her spatula in the batter and shot her arms in the air, smiling: "Look."

Cooking, doing laundry, loading dishwashers and climbing steps are all integral parts of therapy at the new rehabilitation gym at the Martinsburg, W.Va., facility, which works with patients who are in need of rehabilitative care, said Laura DeWitt, director of rehab services.

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The more patients practice performing day-to-day tasks, the better they will be at performing those tasks on their own, said DeWitt.

The facility has a separate wing for long-term-care patients.

Rehab patient Tom Ivory got sick and endured a series of long hospital stays that left him weak before he went to Heartland a month ago.

Ivory, 70, expected to go home soon.

"I was hoping I could walk out without a walker," Ivory said. "My biggest joy will just be to be home again, to sleep in my bed, my big bed."

Many patients set a goal to live independently and staff members encourage patients to get past their disabilities, whether mental or physical, DeWitt said.

DeWitt recalled one patient who insisted she couldn't stand. DeWitt said she heard the woman liked cucumbers and used that as a lure.

"She stood at the sink for 10 minutes peeling cucumbers," DeWitt said.

The new gym isn't as crowded as rooms the facility's therapists once used for their work. It allows for more interaction among patients, DeWitt said.

There can be from 10 to 12 patients in the large room at one time.

"The socialization has been wonderful. They're rooting each other on. They work together and they encourage each other," she said.

Geraldine Wolford has been undergoing rehab at Heartland since January.

A stroke left the 77-year-old Martinsburg woman with no function in her right arm, but on a recent morning she was able to use her right hand to lift a cone off a sticky surface.

Heartland patients also practice walking on various surfaces - from gravel to brick - and work through standard therapies.

A new piece of equipment allows patients to work the arm muscles needed to hoist themselves from a seated position. The height of mats at the gym can be adjusted to the height of any patient's home bed, enabling a patient to practice for his or her own bed.

Staff members even help patients practice getting in and out of bathtubs in a restroom used as part of the gym.

A goal is to help patients regain as much independence as possible.

"We tell our patients, 'Nothing personal, but we don't want you to come back,'" DeWitt said.

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