Have you ever needed physical or occupational therapy (PT/OT)? Many seniors have experienced conditions that cause decreased strength, range of motion, balance deficits, difficulty with walking, or memory issues that may lead them to need PT/OT.
Written by: Allison Bakke, OTR/L, President at Above & Beyond Senior Services, Guest Blog Contributor
Guest blog contributors are invited to share their knowledge, experiences, and valued insights within the fields of Alzheimer’s and other dementia. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor, please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To qualify for PT/OT covered by insurance, patients typically need to meet certain criteria. To remain in therapy, a person must demonstrate “measurable, skilled progress,” or the therapy provider is required to discharge them. It is not uncommon for patients to meet their therapeutic goals and no longer qualify for PT/OT.
When people have completed their PT/OT, they may want the opportunity to maintain the progress they have made. Over the course of the last decade, a new option for wellness and exercise has become increasingly available to Minnesota seniors, and it’s called maintenance therapy.
What is maintenance therapy?
Maintenance therapy consists of the same PT/OT that you are familiar with and is meant to help patients maintain a certain level of function. The overall goal is to avoid a regression in function and ability.
There are a few notable differences, however:
- It starts after traditional therapy ends
- It has no requirements for frequency or duration of service
- It can continue on a long-term basis
- It comes into the home while allowing freedom to be active throughout the community
Case Study: Let’s meet Judy and learn how maintenance therapy helped her
Judy’s diagnosis and current functioning:
Judy has middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease and general deconditioning as a part of her aging process. She struggles with remembering how to do things like dress in the morning and complete the large puzzles she has always enjoyed. Her balance is impaired, and she needs a walker to be safe, but she often forgets to bring it along as she moves about. After having a fall, she was hospitalized with a hip fracture. She completed rehabilitation in the hospital and then a care facility.
Her team recommended that Judy move as her memory loss had progressed and she was no longer safe at home without 24-hour support. Judy and her family made the decision to move her to English Rose Suites. After her move, Judy qualified for Medicare home therapy. Judy was very motivated to get better, but this proved more difficult than imagined. It was hard to be disciplined in completing the home exercises her therapists assigned. Having met her therapeutic goals, Judy was discharged from Medicare home therapy.
How maintenance therapy helped Judy achieve ongoing success:
The team at English Rose Suites noticed declines in her balance after Judy was discharged from Medicare therapy services. It was time for a change. They wanted therapy that focused on the tasks and activities that were important to Judy and allowed the people who know her best to be in control of her rehab. Thanks to a recommendation from the nurse at English Rose Suites, the family inquired about direct-pay, maintenance therapy.
Judy began her work with the maintenance therapists, who helped discover her abilities and limitations. Judy’s therapy goals were set collaboratively. The main goal was to keep Judy as active and engaged in daily life as possible. They were finding their “new normal.” Her desire to maximize her mobility, strength, and balance was met by creative exercise instruction from her therapists.
Over time, Judy had many successes. Eventually, she could walk throughout her home and safely remember her walker with only an occasional reminder from the English Rose Suites staff. Our staff worked collaboratively with the English Rose Suites staff to train them on the best possible verbal reminders to allow Judy to keep doing things on her own.
With everyone working together, Judy began to explore past hobbies she enjoyed, such as puzzles and craft projects involving painting. Her quality of life was significantly improved as she met her goals of participating in community activities and going out to dinner with her family. She felt empowered, engaged, and happy about her accomplishments.
Benefits of Maintenance Therapy:
While many people desire and achieve goals of improvement, maintenance therapy also understands that sometimes, true “maintenance of ability” IS the goal. Many seniors get caught in a cycle of decline, which leads to hospitalization and rehab. Once home again, it is difficult to maintain exercise programs independently. Lack of adequate maintenance leads to progressive decline, and the cycle begins again. Introducing maintenance therapy can be a life-changer for a senior.
When a client has ongoing, one-on-one therapy, they are able to maintain their physical abilities. This often makes the difference between staying where they are currently living and a move to the next higher level of care. A huge benefit of maintenance therapy is that the same therapist can continue with clients long-term, providing specialized monitoring of any age-related changes.
If you are a senior who wants to either regain or maintain your quality of life through wellness and exercise, maintenance therapy may be the missing link that you have been searching for.
Allison Bakke is an occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience working with seniors, specializing in the treatment of cognition and dementia. She is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health and certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
In 2007, she founded Above & Beyond Senior Services, a direct pay support service for seniors who want to prolong their independence and personal freedom. They provide maintenance, physical, and occupational therapy for seniors in the Twin Cities and Rochester.