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For neurological patients, rehab provides path to greater independence

The Outpatient Neuro Clinic at Providence St. Peter Hospital sees many types of patients suffering from neurological disorders or damage. They often see patients recovering from strokes, or those living with multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, or amputation. The clinic sees up to 40 patients each day and has three primary disciplines – physical, occupational, and speech therapy - all located in one place. In 2013, Providence St. Peter Foundation provided $1.6 million in support to Providence ministries in Southwest Washington, including funding for equipment to help patients in their recovery from neurological diseases on a path to greater independence.

McCleary resident Janice Giles was diagnosed in 1997 with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 45. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, which causes shaking, tremors, difficulty moving, and body stiffness. Parkinson’s disease is among the neurological conditions for which the Outpatient Neuro Clinic helps provide rehabilitation. Although Janice had deep brain stimulators implanted about 10 years ago, which help control some of the symptoms, Janice comes to the Outpatient Neuro Clinic for therapy to help her achieve the greatest mobility she can have living with Parkinson’s.

Jill Smith, a lead physical therapist, who provides care to Janice, says “Our multidisciplinary approach makes it so convenient for patients to come to one place. We can coordinate their appointments, and share observations within our team.” The team helps provide mobility, self-care and home management, as well as speech, cognitive, and swallowing assistance.

Rehabilitation equipment, such as that provided by donors to Providence St. Peter Foundation, allows for safe, low-impact exercise for patients of all functional levels. There are unique struggles and challenges that neurological patients have. After enjoying her time using a Nu-Step machine, Janice says, “For those of us with Parkinson’s, we don’t have much rotation. The best thing about this machine is the waist movement.” Jill adds that the Nu-Step is designed to allow patients to move without bearing weight on their legs, which can be an added difficulty for some. 

Often patients, such as those recovering from a stroke, make the transition from being a hospital inpatient to the outpatient setting quite quickly. The rehabilitation units share the same floor, so it’s a smooth transition. In general, the most rapid rate of recovery for these patients will occur in the first 3 to 6 months after the acute onset of a stroke, where most of their time will be in outpatient rehab.

According to Jill, “Often patients will be safe to go home from the hospital in a wheelchair, but the patient may not be satisfied with that level of recovery. In the outpatient clinic, we tackle that problem and ask ‘Where can we go from here?’ We try to give them more independence, so they can live more on their own.

Janice says, “The hardest thing about Parkinson’s is to wonder what’s around the corner. The disease is unpredictable.” About the Neuro Outpatient Clinic, she says, “I like that they’ve been here to help me through my hardest times.”