Cutting Edge Rehab Services for the Elderly

By Beacon Staff

By nature, the terms “geriatric” and “cutting edge” seem unfit for collaboration. But Glen Sargent, director of rehabilitation at Immanuel Lutheran Home, thinks the two can and should go hand in hand.

When it comes to caring for seniors, Sargent figures, why not offer the best rehabilitation equipment available?

That philosophy will be on display at a new $3.5 million rehabilitation center to be constructed this year at Immanuel Lutheran Communities. The facility is designed to assist seniors who need physical therapy and recuperation services after being released from the hospital, perhaps after a surgery.

Site preparation is underway and construction should begin in earnest in March, with an expected completion date of late winter or early spring of next year. The general contractor is Kalispell-based Hammerquist Casalegno and the architectural design is led by AG Architecture out of Wauwatosa, Wis.

“There was a great deal of planning involved in developing the rehabilitation center, which incorporates some of the latest tools and equipment,” Sargent said.

He added: “We already have top-notch therapists and a caregiving staff. Now we have the most up-to-date therapy equipment available to match their talent.”

Immanuel Lutheran Communities is a nonprofit organization offering independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation for the Flathead Valley’s senior residents. Located in Kalispell’s medical community near the hospital, the organization was chartered by the state in 1953 and opened its nursing home in 1957.

Its mission statement is: “Enriching lives by providing Christian communities of support and loving care.”

At the end of 2010, Immanuel Lutheran Communities secured $14 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds from the city. That money is divided into $4 million for refinancing, $3.5 million for the new rehabilitation center and $6.5 million for renovations at Buffalo Hill Terrace.

Buffalo Hill Terrace opened in 1988 as an independent and assisted living facility to complement the existing skilled nursing home, which is called Immanuel Lutheran Home. Buffalo Hill Terrace currently has 100 apartments, ranging from studios to two bedrooms. The nursing home is licensed for 155 residents.

The $6.5 million will fund construction at Buffalo Hill Terrace for six new assisted living apartments, eight independent living apartments and a commons area, with construction also scheduled for this year.

Sargent researched equipment and methods for the rehabilitation center, which will be aimed at short-term care that allows seniors to return back to their homes as quickly as possible. Short-term rehabilitation is already offered, but not nearly to the degree of the new facility.

The rehab center will feature a 5,000-square-foot therapy gym featuring a free-motion resistance machine for balance and strength training, hydro arm and leg bikes, practice stairs and ceiling-mounted lift gates for the treadmill and parallel bars.

An aquatic therapy pool will be equipped with both an underwater treadmill and cameras to analyze movement and aid with therapy. The pool is 13-feet long and eight-and-a-half-feet wide.

“It’s unique for the valley in this type of care setting,” said Jim Archibald, executive director of Immanuel Lutheran Home.

The rehab center will also have 16 large private rooms with bathrooms and spacious “European showers,” which are walk-in and allow for full ADA access. Additionally, the center will have a library, recreation area, theater, Nintendo Wii, meals on demand and Wi-Fi. Occupational, physical, speech and massage therapy services are also provided.

A full-scale apartment with a working kitchen will be used to simulate home activities, such as reaching for cabinets and cooking.

“We want to cater to that feeling of wanting to get better, wanting to go home,” Sargent said. “We want to do everything we can to help them get back home.”

Overall, Archibald said the center will be far more inviting than people expect out of a rehabilitation center.

“This will look like a resort,” Archibald said. “We wanted to get away from the health care model and make it look like a vacation.”

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