Helping Patients Get Back to Living with Real-Life Scenarios
It was about a week into her therapy, and Linda White was optimistic. After a bad break to her leg and hip replacement surgery, Linda was admitted to a HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital. Her goal was to get back to her normal life as quickly as possible. She worked diligently with her therapists, following their instructions. However, when they asked her to make brownies about a week into her 10-day stay, Linda was skeptical.
“I thought, ‘how’s this this going to help my leg,’” she recalled. Linda did as she was told, though, and began cooking in a kitchen station inside the hospital as her therapists watched her every move. “They’d watch me shift my weight and go to the refrigerator to get eggs,” she said. “It was all those things that you do automatically, that you don’t think about.”
About REAL™ Therapy
As part of Realistic Environment Applied Learning, or REAL™ Therapy, Linda and patients like her are relearning everyday activities in a true-to-life environment. A gym at the hospital was transformed into stations mimicking common situations. In addition to the kitchen, there’s also a grocery store, restaurant, laundry mat, gas station, car and ATM.
The goal of the pilot program is to transition patients back to their normal lives by performing everyday tasks. “We want them to return to independence,” said Gina, a physical therapist at the hospital. “Lots of times (patients) can’t picture doing things like grocery shopping or doing laundry. We can simulate these things and let them do them at their own pace.”
Oftentimes, she said, the tools used in traditional physical therapy do not translate to real-life scenarios for patients. In REAL™ Therapy at MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital, patients are using the same tools they would use outside of the hospital.
Those going through the grocery store are equipped with a shopping cart and can select items from the aisle. “I’m just so tickled because this is really what I’m going to face when I get back home,” Linda said after her last day of therapy. “I’m leaving tomorrow, so I wanted to go back again and practice. I just want to be able to get on my own feet.”
The stations have different ground surfaces. MidAmerica patients can practice stepping off a curb or climbing into a car. The car seat can be adjusted to a higher level to simulate a patient’s vehicle.
Help with Multi-Tasking
The program isn’t just about physical activities, either. It also helps with multi-tasking, said Speech Language Pathologist Amanda.While signing a check at the restaurant station,
patients may also have to figure the tip, and at the grocery store they are pushing a cart while selecting items from the aisles.
“It’s really been fabulous to simulate a lot of daily activities and functional problems,” said Amanda of the therapy department. “They are multi-tasking, which is something we don’t usually get to focus on. We’re seeing the individual do several things at once.”
Patients Enjoy Newfound Confidence
In the short time since MidAmerica has implemented REAL™ Therapy, the results have been positive. Patients are able to give immediate feedback and they leave the hospital with newfound confidence. It’s not surprising that other hospitals are already looking to implement REAL™ Therapy.
Linda could not agree more. When admitted for rehabilitation, she described herself as “a wreck.” She could hardly walk or put any pressure on her injured leg. A week and a half later, she was ready to ease into her SUV and head to the grocery store or maybe even out for a bite to eat.
“I feel confident,” Linda said. “That area they have, it’s like a little town. I practiced getting in and out of my car. I also got to go to the restaurant. This place is just so awesome. The experience helped so much.”
To learn more about REAL™ Therapy available at
MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital,
call 913 491-2400.