After any health crisis or hospital event, such as a fall or a surgery, the terms “rehab” and “therapy” are often mentioned by physicians. It’s important to ask questions regarding our wellness: what do these words mean, and more specifically, what do they mean for patients?
“Therapy” is a broad term. There are many different types of therapy; rehabilitation therapy involves six types: physical, occupational, speech, respiratory, cognitive and vocational therapies. Vocational therapy is a branch of therapy that prepares the patient to return to the workforce; this type of therapy doesn’t apply to the retired population.
According to rehabselect.net, these 6 types of rehab therapies have one primary goal: “to help individuals recover from illness, injury, surgery, stroke, cardiac events or other medical issues and regain functional abilities and independence lost to these events.”
Physical, occupational and speech therapy help an individual reclaim their mobility and function. Speech therapy can help with a stutter or lisp, but it goes much deeper than that. Speech therapy is used after a health incident such as a stroke, where swallowing and other functions of the mouth and throat are lost.
“My passion in the therapy world started in 1995 when I had torn my meniscus to my left knee and required surgery,” Jennifer Garza said. She required multiple surgeries to heal this injury. “This saddened me so much because I had just made the varsity basketball team my junior year and I was going to have to sit out that year.
“My senior year I came back stronger than ever after 6 months of therapy due to having two surgeries back-to-back. I worked hard with two other friends from other high schools after normal practice, taking extra time to get where I needed to be.”
Jennifer’s hopes of playing basketball in college were furled. Recruiters wouldn’t pick her after seeing her injury, despite the progress she made in occupational therapy.
“In the meantime, I went back to my therapy clinic and asked for suggestions to improve, or anything that would make me stronger,” Jennifer explained.
“Their compassion would not allow me to give up. This desire drove me to go to Del Mar College and get my Associate Degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant! I absorbed as much as possible once I graduated.”
Between Jennifer Garza’s knowledge in outpatient settings, acute settings, and ICU therapy, she found a position in Kingsville and helped the physical therapist there run his clinic. After this position and a few others, Garza was offered the Director of Rehab position at a nursing home in Corpus Christi, where she fine-tuned her skills in both rehabilitative therapy and as a leader for five years before finding her way home to Mirador.
Jennifer, what does a “typical day” of work look like for you? For your team members?
“A typical day for me as the DOR… I do the schedules early every Monday morning for the ten people on my team, and I communicate with my rehab tech and nurses if we received any new patients the night before. This is to make sure that they are seen within 24 hours. Then, we have our clinical morning meeting that starts at 8:45 a.m. I report and communicate any specific appointments, additional needs for nursing, and the patient's needs.
“Thursdays, prior to COVID-19, we gathered 4-6 patients and educated them on grocery shopping, gyms, and community activities. This allowed them to get ready for scenarios they would face when they return home. This also helped residents have huge eye-openers and gain confidence in their return home. The Mirador van would take us, two of my therapists, and the rehab tech to provide extra oxygen, water and snacks in case of an emergency. One member of the Therapy Team, Kristina Villarreal, talks more about that experience in this interview on the Mirador Facebook page.
“This was a great incentive for the patients that came to our skilled environment here at Mirador; we started about a year ago. I usually treat 3-4 residents a day. When I treat, I give my undivided attention… especially as the supervisor. It provides an extra touch, even when we just talk about their loved ones or needs. Recently, our residents have felt the agony and depression of not seeing their loved ones due to COVID-19.”
Jennifer Garza’s mother lives in a skilled nursing community, and not being able to see her has impressed upon Garza the urgency of connecting with residents and patients to provide a sense of comfort and community.
There is an array of benefits in staying at an in-patient rehabilitation community after surgery rather than going home. Most home health companies are allowed to treat only 2 or 3 times a week, compared to the daily exercises and activities at MRC Mirador. After surgery, it is critical to move muscles, joints and increase circulation daily in order to decrease the risk of falls or injury. Residents in Skilled Nursing, either temporary or permanent, receive therapy 5 to 7 times each week.
“I am absolutely grateful to be able to work here and with an extraordinary team! I hope to retire here; I would not leave it for any other job in Corpus Christi. I celebrated my two-year anniversary this past April! Yay!”