Advance Rehabilitation clinics have always run like well-oiled machines. The physical therapy centers in Brunswick and St. Simons Island are bustling practices, where patients are offered top-quality care and an opportunity to gain a new lease on life.
But, as the coronavirus began to spread across the globe, the staff has been forced to find ways to adapt to the changing times. Kendra Lawrence vividly remembers the early stages of the pandemic. The therapist at the island branch says they began seeing a shift in February.
“Our busiest season is typically the first of the year. We work six days a week ... opening on Saturdays just to make sure we can fit everybody in,” she said, seated in a therapy room.
“In February, as the news got around, we saw fewer people. We were seeing about 30 percent of the number of patients we usually saw.”
Soon, it became very clear that they would have to take critical measures in order to continue caring for their patients, while ensuring all involved stayed safe. Lawrence says the team put a plan in place to do just that.
“We have patients that are at higher risk so it was very important for us to keep them safe. We started staggering appointments so there were fewer people in the building. We put hand sanitizer stations throughout and handed out masks,” she said.
“And, of course, we were making sure to sanitize and clean equipment between patients.”
But they did even more. Rather than having patients miss vital therapy sessions, they offered options — in-home and telemedicine treatments.
Lawrence was one of those going into patients’ homes to help ensure a continuity of care. And, she went the extra mile to make sure she was doing that as safely as possible.
“I would take a bag with me and literally change clothes between houses ... right down to my shoes. Then, I would disinfect everything,” she said. “We knew how important it was to be very cautious. I am actually in a higher risk group myself ... I have rheumatoid arthritis so I completely understand.”
For those high risk patients who couldn’t chance in-person visits, telemedicine brought therapists directly into their homes without putting their health in jeopardy.
“That has been a really great thing for patients. We have one who has lung cancer and is on oxygen. We were able to guide her and her family members through the steps to set it up,” she said. “It’s so important that patients continue their exercises and routines. We definitely don’t want to see a regression. We want them to keep moving forward.”
The in-home and telemedicine options have proved to be game changers for the clinics and their patients. In addition to advancing their progress, patients were also able to have that sense of connection that has proved difficult during these times.
“For so many people, especially those who don’t have family or have family here, it’s been very isolating. They haven’t been able to get socialization from going out to eat or to the grocery store,” Lawrence said.
“So it’s been important for them to be able to have that human interaction. It’s been great to be able to continue working with them and keep them consistent, too.”
While continuing to offer alternative treatment options, Advance has returned to full staffing capacity and has resumed normal operations. Appointment times continue to be staggered, and all equipment is sanitized before and after use, which has always been implemented at all Advance clinics.
Consistency is truly key when it comes to seeing real progress. And in addition to their standard therapy programs, Advance Rehabilitation also offers an initiative called Get Glynn Fit. The five week program allows participants to build on their progress as they work with therapists over time while targeting specific areas each week.
“This is a huge advantage during this time. Each week there’s an area of focus — balance, strength, etc. We give them a plan that they can do in the safety of their home,” Lawrence said. Through the Glynn Fit program, patients are able to both progress back to their functional baseline that may have been altered by decreased activity. Patients are also able to progress towards greater strength and balance which can circumvent possible risks that could have serious ramifications, such as the risk of a fall. To begin the Glynn Fit program, or to be evaluated for care, all that’s needed is a referral from any physician sent to any Advance Rehabilitation clinic.