Emerald Care Rewrites the Way to “DO” Therapy

March 29, 2018


They say ‘Time heals all wounds,’ but recovery from physical ailments— ranging from fractures, age-related debilitation, or obesity to complications of strokes, heart attacks, or progression of various diseases—takes more than time.

At minimum, professional guidance— usually in the form of physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy—is necessary to prevent further injury, rebuild strength, and regain skills impacted by the person’s condition. In many cases, full recovery requires at least a short-term stay in a skilled nursing facility as well as therapy to improve mobility, restore communication, and facilitate the activities of daily life (ADLs).

When nursing and therapy both are indicated, the traditional model consists of a patient entering a nursing facility with referrals made to outside therapy locations that schedule appointments as necessary.

Emerald Care, a non-profit skilled nursing facility in Wapato, has taken a bold step to streamline services to their residents by bringing therapists on-board. The 82-bed facility, which provides both short-term and long-term care, is the first nursing facility in the Yakima Valley to offer skilled nursing plus all physical and occupational therapy as well as speech/language pathology services on-staff, on-site, and self-contained within one facility.


Administrator Mike Hoon discussed the past experiences of residents who had to travel for physical therapy: “Imagine the exhaustion felt by a resident who had to be dressed, transferred into his wheelchair, installed in a van then rode 20- 30 minutes to get to a rehab facility. Once there, he worked independently on a piece of equipment for 15 minutes before getting back into the van and returning to the facility. He may have seen different therapists on each visit and likely was just another face to them. Those appointments often disrupted mealtimes or happened on an already challenging day, so it may have been a two-hour ordeal for a 15-minute session that simply wore out and discouraged residents.”

Hoon then described how therapy works at Emerald Care: “It often takes place in a resident’s room. Last–minute schedule changes are easily accommodated to allow an assisted bathroom break or to finish watching a favorite TV program. If necessary, nurses may time the administration of pain medication to make therapeutic movement more comfortable.”

“Best of all,” he continued, “a strong bond forms between therapists and residents because therapy never happens in isolation—no one is put on a machine to work alone. There is a companionship as therapist and resident work intently together to meet healing goals, one-on-one. ”

Amy Conrad (physical therapist), Pam Wilburn (occupational therapist), and Katie Walker (speech/language pathologist) all agree wholeheartedly with Emerald Care’s tagline: It Feels Like Home—that staff and residents alike tend to feel they are members of a big extended family. “In addition to scheduled sessions,” explained Wilburn, “we encounter one another in the halls where impromptu therapy and friendly visiting both occur on a daily basis. Residents are always welcome to visit the Rehabilitation gym where they often seek additional insight, request extra workout or stretching time, and share their accomplishments with us. This encourages residents to keep coming back.”

Walker often works with residents admitted into the facility who have trouble swallowing thus can eat only pureed foods. “It’s always exciting to help a resident re-learn to swallow safely,” she said. “One resident recently progressed to being able to eat a hamburger and an apple; he celebrated with a meal from Dairy Queen!”

Conrad, now in her third year at the facility, also has success stories to share, such as a recent admit who had trouble getting out of bed and now gets up, brings herself to the dining room, and feeds herself. Her quality of life was greatly enhanced by being able to participate more in activities and socialization, too.

She also has seen virtual miracles enacted by therapy in this homelike environment. “We admitted a quadriplegic who could barely operate his electric wheelchair. The whole department worked with him intensely; the entire facility encouraged him daily. One day we gathered all the staff together to see something ‘special.’ When that resident got out of his wheelchair and walked unassisted for several minutes, there were quite a few tears mixed with the cheers!” Today, she added, that same resident walks independently—without a walker—and does all his activities of daily life independently.

Hoon has plans to expand the facility’s Rehab department, to include building an outdoor Rehab course and purchasing more equipment. “Here at Emerald Care, we really do care about our residents. We say that It Feels Like Home and what it comes down to is that we treat residents as we would our own parents and grandparents. So therapy has been structured to ensure residents have the best rehabilitation experience possible. We will never stop reaching for that higher ideal!”