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New era of care: More than just a name change at Life Care Center
The first thing Shari Ashbaugh noticed was the smell. Or rather, the lack of it.
After breaking her hip this summer, Ashbaugh was admitted to Life Care Center of the San Juan Islands, formerly Islands Convalescent Center, for rehabilitation. Like many people, Ashbaugh thought of Life Care Center as more of a nursing home — a place associated more with aging than regaining health.
Within four weeks, her view changed. Life Care Center “was the perfect place for me to be at this time,” she said.
Ashbaugh’s testimony reinforces the success of Life Care Center’s efforts to breathe new life into its image, with a diversified and improved level of care in the community.
“We are really providing the community with a convenience that no one else does,” Community Liaison Ingrid Fabianson says of Life Care’s short-term, long-term and rehabilitation care services.
On a practical level, this means an expansion and improvement of resources. There has been a lot of attention paid to the quality and availability of the rehabilitation team. “The rehab is available seven days a week,” Fabianson says. There is a range of therapies to cater to different needs, including occupational, physical and speech therapy. The staff is highly trained and even within the ardors of rehabilitation there are nuances of energy and fun.
Take, for example, the Wii in the therapy unit. Patti Bjarnason, acting for Rehabilitation Services Manager Julia Thompson, says the Wii has been very effective.
“It works fabulously, especially for people who don’t motivate well.” The Wii brings play back into therapy and helps to energize those who may not be enthusiastic about conventional exercises.
“The rehab staff keeps expanding,” Director Nai Saefong says. The highly trained staff and assistants are available to come to the patient’s home and, Saefong says, the outpatient care continues to evolve.
“We’re really proud of our therapy department,” Saefong says. “This is actually a place to come, get well and go back to the community.”
Attention is paid not only to the body, but to the spirit. Activities Coordinator Betsy Anderson emphasizes the importance of keeping active and happy. She designs weekly schedules brimming with activities and projects to keep spirits up and minds occupied.
“Our main purpose is to enhance the quality of life on an everyday basis, to work to meet the resident individual’s needs.”
In her two and a half years working at the center, Anderson has cultivated a range of ideas that work to fill up patients’ time: Arts projects with local students, field trips, flower-arranging classes, live music, manicures, movies ... the patient and resident are never short of things to do, or things to look forward to.
Anderson gives credit to members of the community for their regular and enthusiastic contributions to the center.
“We have so much community support and there are so many volunteers,” she says. She lists, among others, the continuing performances of the San Juan Jazz Quintet and The Others Brothers, monthly visits by Master Gardener Alice Deane, presentations by Shona Aitken of Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and visits by Stillpoint School students who come to do art projects with patients and residents.
“It’s their home, not a hospital,” Anderson says of Life Care’s residents.
Of course, it’s not easy relegating to the past the image of “the nursing home.” As Fabianson says, the community has known Life Care Center as Islands Convalescent Center since the 1960s.
“It will develop, but it will be a slow process. It will take a little while.”
In the meantime, Fabianson says the atmosphere of the place is definitely changing. “It’s livelier, we have many more people coming and going.” And if the proof lies in patients, just ask Ashbaugh about her experience.
“I just can’t say enough good things."