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Lake View adds short term rehab center

Lake View Hospital occupational therapist Rachel Gischia (back) works with a short term rehab patient in the hospital's new "apartment." The apartment gives patients a chance to demostrate practical skills to determine when they are ready to return home safely. (Photo courtesy of Lake View Hospital)

For victims of a stroke, heart attack or other life changing event, those first few days can be scary, but even more daunting are the weeks or even months of rehabilitation many of those patients must go through. In the past, patients in Lake County had to travel to Duluth or even further for that short term rehab care required after an extended hospital stay or even a procedure like knee replacement surgery.

Fortunately, Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors recently upgraded its short term rehab facilities to include an apartment-style setting featuring a standard bedroom, kitchen area and even a bathtub and couch for the occupational therapists working there to assess patients needs and readiness to go home.

"The short term rehab program is for patients that are not quite ready to go home yet," Lake View rehab manager Katie Klessig said. "They have some weaknesses, whether it's physical strength or cognitive weaknesses, and the short term rehab program will help them progress to the point where they are safe to return home."

Occupational, physical and even speech therapists at Lake View will provide a comprehensive assessment for patients after a hospital stay to determine if a patient is ready to return home and changes or accommodations they may need to live safely in their home upon returning. In the new apartment created at Lake View, patients can practice getting in and out of bed safely, getting up off a low couch or even cooking an egg or some toast. There is even a bathtub to help patients practice getting safely in and out of, no easy task for many older adults with limited mobility.

"Adding that area has really helped us to advance our assessment of the safety of that patient to help them succeed at home," Klessig said. "That's our goal is to get them to a point where they can be safe and successful at home once their rehab is complete."

Lake View was able to add the apartment area because of extra space made available when the nursing home at the hospital closed a few years ago. Rachel Gischia, an occupational therapist at the hospital, initially proposed the idea, which moved the rehab space all onto the upper level of the hospital making it more accessible for patients staying in the rehab center.

"Our typical focus with the rehab patients is they are preparing to go home safely and confidently after a hospitalization or illness," Gischia said. "We didn't really have a space for them to work on practical tasks or everyday activities like cooking, getting in and out of furniture, setting a table, making a bed or getting in the bathtub. So we designed this space for patients to work in to demonstrate their skills, for us to educate them on safety and to have a home-like setting to work in during their therapy stay and as a way for us to see how they would do in a setting that is unlike the hospital."

Klessig said the apartment setting has been a "wonderful addition" to the short term rehab center at Lake View and helps therapists and patients understand what they need to live at home safely and independently. Even if they aren't ready to live independently or without assistance, the new unit helps patients prepare for life after a hospital stay.

"We can make the modifications to the home if they need it or add a caregiver to come in and help clean, with some cooking tasks or even recommend Meals on Wheels," Klessig said. "Not everyone achieves that independence right away, but that occupational therapist assessment will really help them plan out what they need prior to going home."

Lake View will hold an open house and presentation about its new short term rehab center from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Klessig and other members of the Lake View rehab team will be on hand to answer questions and show guests around the new facility.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lake Superior School District board of education and high school sports in Lake County. 

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