Lauren Kardos, Lead PT; Ann Lahr, Lead OT; Joe Farrel, PT; Misty Carpenter, SLP; Krissy Halkes, PTA; Eileen Thomas, PT
The rehabilitation team at Shore is another department impacted by COVID-19, but one you may not think of when you hear “frontline workers”. Many hospitalized patients require the help of physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists to prepare for discharge to home or a rehab facility. With COVID-19, the staff face unique challenges in how to best care for patients, both in the outpatient and inpatient areas.
In outpatient rehab, Jen Pesce, Director of Rehabilitation, says they’re following safe social distancing so patients and staff wouldn’t be within 12 feet of someone else. Each therapist works with only one patient at a time instead of several, and families are no longer able to accompany their loved one to learn how to help them perform exercises at home. Instead, staff explain them over the phone and by email.
Lauren Kardos is the lead inpatient physical therapist and says what many people do not realize is how debilitated COVID patients become due to the severity of their disease process, and how it impacts their treatment.
Instead of having patients walk down the hallways to build up their endurance, physical therapists have them exercise in and around their bed. Our occupational therapist will work with them to practice putting on shoes and socks if they aren’t able to bend over well because of weakness, and our speech therapists might help a patient eat foods of smoother consistencies for easier swallowing and to avoid aspiration, which can be extremely problematic for someone who is already battling COVID-related pneumonia. Sometimes patients with COVID will have other conditions as well that further complicate their condition and require the help of therapists. In all of these cases, our rehab staff must take all of the necessary precautions when entering their rooms – and when they go home to their families.
Anne Lahr is Shore’s inpatient occupational therapist. Her first grandchildren, a set of twins, were born two months ago, but she hasn’t been able to see them since this all started. It’s a sacrifice she has had to make to protect herself, her patients and her family.
Kardos says that while many people are feeling isolated because of quarantine, she knows their patients are feeling it even more.
“I have seen so many staff members going the extra miles to keep patients in contact with their loved ones and make them as comfortable as possible. Their long hospital stays mean that we become an integral and consistent member of their care team – someone they have come to trust and depend on.”
The rehab team at Shore has always been close-knit, but in the midst of the COVID outbreak, they’ve come to rely on one another more than ever.
“We’re offering each other physical support for patient care and emotional support to one another and our patients during these unprecedented times. We even stay connected on our days off, with our ongoing group chats where we share pictures or funny stories. With the world hyper-focused on this pandemic, we try to stay positive and maintain a sense of humor. You have to stay grounded.”