WATONGA, Okla. – Joyce Gray suffered for more than a year from Lambert-Eaton syndrome, a complex, muscle weakness disease that made it hard for her to breathe and caused her muscles to stiffen as though she was paralyzed.
In early 2014, the 72-year-old was transported to Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where she stayed for a couple of weeks. Her goal was to eventually leave the hospital and return home, but she wasn’t strong enough yet to make the transition.
Instead, Gray transferred to Mercy Hospital Watonga’s skilled care program where she could receive nursing care and rehabilitation services to build her strength and increase her range of motion closer to her friends and family.
“She needed that special care and we couldn’t get it in a bigger hospital or at a nursing home,” said Gray’s daughter, Deena Ridenhour, of Watonga. Plus, “we wanted her to be able to go home because that’s what she wanted.”
While in the skilled care program at Mercy Hospital Watonga, Gray received daily physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, in addition to respiratory therapy for her breathing and other skilled nursing care. Ridenhour was impressed with how flexible the therapy services team was with her mom since Gray was often unable to move and participate in therapy until the afternoon after her muscles relaxed.
“Because they were right there in the building, they were able to check in with her at different times to see how she was doing and if it was a good time for therapy services,” said Ridenhour. “She did really well and they were so very kind to her and understanding. They really took care to learn about her disease and come up with things she could do on her own.”
After a couple of weeks at the hospital, Gray was able to walk on her own and return home, thanks to the skilled care services she received at Mercy Hospital Watonga.
About Skilled Care
The skilled care program provides additional care or pain management for a patient, like Gray, after a hospital discharge. The program provides a step-down service — or transitional care — after a patient stays at the hospital for three or more days but before returning home.
Through the program, Mercy’s hospital team delivers a variety of services focused on the patient’s recovery so he or she can quickly return home. The average length of stay in the skilled care program ranges from about 10 to 14 days, but can vary based on the patient’s needs.
Skilled care services include physical, occupational and speech therapies; cardiac monitoring; intravenous (IV) medication administration; daily injections; feeding tube adjustments; respiratory treatments; complex wound care; nutritional counseling; 24-hour nursing care (if medically necessary); and patient and family education for new conditions, such as diabetes or colostomy care.
In addition to the medical services provided, an activities coordinator will also meet with patients to play games, work on puzzles, listen to music, take them on wheelchair rides or simply talk to them. This helps reduce stress and pass the time during their recovery.
“Our skilled care program really focuses on developing achievable goals for patients so they can get physically stronger and go home when they achieve those goals,” said Erin Scammahorn, manager of physical medicine at Mercy Hospital Watonga. “What is so helpful about the program is that patients have access to all the services and medical providers they need under one roof so they can concentrate on healing.”
How to Get Started
Patients must meet certain Medicare or insurance plan requirements to qualify for skilled care at Mercy. Medicaid does not cover skilled care services. A referral by a provider or a case manager is required.
If you or someone you know is considering skilled care after a hospital stay, ask your provider or case manager about Mercy’s skilled care program requirements and whether there is a location close to your home or to a loved one. In Oklahoma, Mercy offers skilled care services in Guthrie, Healdton, Kingfisher, Tishomingo and Watonga.
Gray met her goal to go home and was able to spend a few weeks with her friends and family before she relapsed and ended up back in the ICU at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. She passed away in June 2014.
Ridenhour said she is thankful for the skilled care services in Watonga and the ability for her mother to spend her final weeks at home.
“All she wanted was to get home and it was so great to be able to take her there because with the problems she had I didn’t know if she would ever see home again,” said Ridenhour.
To learn more about Mercy’s skilled care program, contact a case manager at Mercy Hospital Watonga at 580-623-7211, ext. 374.
Mercy is the fifth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves millions annually. Mercy includes 34 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and two orthopedic hospitals, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.