Posted May 23, 2012
The Healthy Living Formula
|Healthy living involves discipline and a strategic approach towards exercise and nutrition. It requires small, consistent changes every day to increase your metabolism and fuel your body with the right types of nutrients.
Posted April 18, 2012
Founder and Chief Innovative Officer
edited by Becky Lerner
As I reflect on the past 40 years—first as a staff Occupational Therapist, then Director of an Occupational Therapy department, Consultant in Private Practice and business owner, entrepreneur, and CEO of The Comprehensive Group—I know that the secret to my success is that I fully embraced and utilized the basic philosophy and teachings of the great profession of Occupational Therapy. And the new brand message for Occupational Therapy fits it even better.
Within our profession there have always been variations of defining what we do. “Occupational Therapy: Living Life To Its Fullest®” embraces those variations and it finally embraces and succinctly defines our identity and mission.
I have truly lived my life to the fullest, but I have always sought to first help my patients and each of my staff to live their lives to the fullest extent as well. Occupational Therapists help people adapt to their disability whether it is physical, developmental or psychological, and we enable our patients to live life as independently as possible, minimizing weaknesses and maximizing strengths or abilities.
As a manager, I sought to carefully match the strengths and interests of our therapists with our clients and patients, which, would inevitably enhance their skills and capitalize on their strengths. And we found this to be a winning combination, literally.
My emphasis on work-life balance came from my roots as an Occupational Therapist as well. I subscribed to this philosophy when I began hiring OT’s to assist me in my consultation practice providing flex days/hours. Engaging more with staff members allowed for increased retention and overall excellence in service—of which I am most proud.
Occupational Therapists are irreplaceable in the job they do every day. They are creative, adaptable and flexible. They are driven and determined to make a positive impact in the lives of their patients. And they recognize that the people they serve are important. OTs help people live life to its fullest.
I am proud to be an Occupational Therapist. I know that the profession gave me the skills to make my dreams possible and accomplish the goals in between to get there. I am proud of each of you, the hundreds of Occupational Therapists who represent The Comprehensive Group and HealthPRO® Rehabilitation who, together, serve thousands of patients every day. It is each of you that make a difference!
Happy OT Month! Continue living your lives to the fullest. We appreciate and recognize your dedication and daily achievements.
Posted March 13, 2012
Director of Consultation at The Comprehensive Group
Social workers are committed to helping people cope with and overcome some of life’s most difficult circumstances—physical and mental illness, disability, poverty, abuse and neglect, unemployment, marital problems, social issues, and addictions—to name a few. Understandably, it can be an incredibly challenging, yet incredibly exciting field, which is why social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., according to The National Association of Social Workers.
Professional social workers typically have Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees in Social Work in addition to their state’s license. Their educational background includes coursework in human development, social behavior, psychology, program development, and economic institutions. In addition, they tend to specialize in areas such as community mental health, juvenile casework, medical social work, psychotherapy, and marriage and family counseling. They are trained to observe and analyze how circumstances and environmental factors interact to impact their clients’ social functioning. As a result, there are a variety of settings in which social workers are found. They practice intervention and crisis-prevention in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, prisons, corporations, and private practices. They then develop a treatment plan designed lead the client toward optimal functioning.
Further, with the consideration of the baby boomers, the demand for social workers dedicated to working with seniors is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. The Comprehensive Group routinely seeks out and interacts with social workers in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior housing communities. Social workers who work with the elderly have expertise in aging, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and psychiatric and physical rehabilitation. They help the seniors regain and maintain optimal independence wherever they may be living.
March is National Social Work Month and The Comprehensive Group is pleased to recognize our exceptional staff of social workers. This month and always, we applaud these hardworking professionals who have dedicated their careers to improving the lives of others.
Posted February 27, 2012
by Becky Lerner
Forgetting where you put your keys or why you came into a room is nothing compared to what Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients experience on a day-to-day, nay, hour-to-hour, or minute-by-minute basis. With what is arguably one of the most difficult (and possibly engrossing) set of circumstances, our Dementia and Alzheimer’s professionals go through those days with their patients: learning their patterns, living their experiences, and caring for them. It’s a tough job, but TCG employees Karen Howard, OTR/L, and Jennifer Wagner, PT, both out of Bethlehem Woods Nursing & Rehabilitation, speak with us about the rewards and challenges of their respective jobs.
“A big piece of being a caregiver is to know enough about a person—if there’s a time of day when they’re at their best, or what triggers certain behavior,” says Howard. Much of the time, she continues, Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients don’t have the words to communicate if they’re uncomfortable, so it’s the caregiver’s job to learn the patterns, learn their communication forms, and control what they can within the environment. “Familiarity, routine, and repetition are important,” she says.
“Just like you wouldn’t argue a reason with a 3-year-old, they don’t understand reasoning,” says Wagner. “They don’t understand why you need to exercise for the sake of exercise. You need to be where they are, and it’s a comfort to them to have someone with them in that moment.”
So how do the professionals, constantly adapting to their patients, keep themselves healthy, happy, and able to do their job? Balance.
Especially if family members are caring for a Dementia or Alzheimer’s patient, it’s important to set boundaries and find some separation whether that means taking some personal time or utilizing a facility like Bethlehem Woods.
“Coming into a place like this, they have a little peace,” says Wagner. “Family members can still call and come hang out whenever they want, but it’s relieving that they don’t have to worry about caring for someone who needs their full attention all the time.”
As for those who work that the facilities, Howard says that music, yoga, spending time with family and friends, and, of course, lots of laughter help her re-energize and refocus.
Wagner finds her inspiration in the small successes. “Tie a string to balloon, step aside, and let patient punch it. First their hesitant and by the end, they’re whacking the balloon and laughing,” she says. “It’s little successes that make you go back to the books and the websites and figure how you’re going to make this person’s life better. Of course you want long-term goals, but you want short-term, attainable goals. And you should want that for yourself, too.”
“Even though you might not change the condition of a person’s life, know that you have an impact. When the patient knows that you’re there and that you care about them, it really doesn’t matter whether they’re in the mildest or most advanced stages. They know. They can feel it, and they can tell,” says Howard.
As the end of February marks the end of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Month, TCG wants to take a moment to recognize those professionals who make patients’ and their families’ lives better. Thank you for all your hard work, dedication, innovation, and care!
Posted February 17, 2012
This is a great article from the NASAL about the significant changes pending on the therapy cap exceptions process.
Today, conferees are signing the conference agreement that includes an extension of the therapy cap exceptions process through December 31, 2012. We expect the House and Senate to vote on the agreement either today or tomorrow.
At this point, we have a summary of the “Health-Related Provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012″ (Conference Agreement) prepared by health committee staff and its details on the extension are vague. The summary language is similar to the House-passed version from December in some respects. When actual bill text is released, we will see more detail as to how the reformed exceptions process will be structured. Also, the original House language saved money over 10 years due to extending the therapy cap to the hospital outpatient setting. This summary does not indicate any savings, instead it indicates a cost, so it is possible that there have been some tweaks to that specific provision.
Other provisions of interest to NASL members:
- Physician Payment Rates-freezes payment rates at their current level through December 31, 2012;
- Physician Work Geographic Adjustment – extends the floor on the adjustment to the work portion of payments for physician services that account for the geographic area where a physician practices;
- Bad Debt-phases down SNF’s ability to get bad debt reimbursed;
- Resets Clinical Lab Payment Rates-reduces payment rates for clinical lab services by 2% in 2013.
As soon as we have more information, we will send it to NASL members. Below is the exact section from the Agreement on the exceptions process. To view entire summary, [Click Here].
Section 3005 – Outpatient Therapy Caps – This provision extends the therapy caps exceptions process through December 31, 2012, with modifications that will require that the physician reviewing the therapy plan of care be detailed on the claim, reject all claims above the spending cap that do not include the proper billing modifier, and provide for a manual review of all claims for high cost beneficiaries to ensure that only medically necessary services are being provided. Furthermore, the spending caps ($1,880 in 2012), which have been in effect since 2006, would be extended to the hospital outpatient department setting to prevent a shift in the site of service to higher cost settings once enforcement of the current exceptions process begins. Exempting these services in the HOPD setting made sense when the hard therapy cap was in place, but it no longer makes sense with the exceptions process. Additionally, HHS is required to collect data to assist in reforming the payment system for therapy services. MedPAC is required to recommend improvements to the outpatient therapy benefit to reflect the individual needs of patients. CBO estimates this provision would increase spending by $700 million from 2012 through 2022.
Posted January 13, 2012
Deborah Connery, LCSW
Director of Consultation at The Comprehensive Group
Activity Professionals are key players in the world of healthcare. It is also a profession that is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years, especially in the senior housing and long-term care industry.
Through program development, Activity Professionals help seniors and persons with disabilities structure their leisure time in ways that meet their cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Programs typically include exercise, arts and crafts, cooking, games, dance, music, community outings, and religious activities; although, what is included in a program is limited only by the creativity and vision of the Activity Professional. And because work environments vary, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Activity Professionals work in nursing homes, hospitals, senior housing facilities, and residential care environments. Most importantly, the profession, as a whole, is dedicated to fun, exploration, and life’s pure enjoyments.
Activity Professionals come from varying backgrounds. A college degree is not necessarily required, but specialized training in therapeutic interventions for specific areas such as: older adults; adults and children with mental and physical disabilities; and adults with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is beneficial for anyone looking to work in an Activity Department. Seminars, community college courses, and workshops are readily available to potential and existing Activity Professionals.
The Comprehensive Group has special affection for the hardworking Activity Professionals we support in nursing homes, assisted living communities, senior retirement communities, and hospitals. Our consultants have worked in these various communities and so know firsthand both the thrills and operational hardships of the mission of helping seniors and disabled people realize their fullness of purpose and leisure.
We are dedicated to providing Activity Professionals with the education and resources they need to design leisure programs that engage and excite participants. We know that BINGO is here to stay, yet life can be so much more. We love to see seniors branching out into culinary programs, fine art programs, innovative exercise and social programs that promote much-needed peer relationships. We don’t see barriers when it comes to activities. We see opportunities for a quality of life residents never dreamed they could have outside their own homes.
Through our 36-hour Activity Director Courses, 6 hour Activity Assistant Workshops, Dementia Workshops for Activity Professionals and CNAs, and specialized on-site consultation services, we encourage Activity Professionals to continue to grow and remain excited about designing programs for the people they serve.
January 22-28, we send a loud “We Love You!” to the Activity Professionals in Chicagoland and beyond. You are providing a quality of life service to your residents, which makes all the difference between growing and growing older. Kudos to you from The Comprehensive Group during Activity Professionals Week and beyond!
Posted December 21, 2011
With healthcare reform taking on an urgent tone as 2011 comes to an end, this article by colleagues Polsinelli Shughart does a great job of explaining what, exactly, is on the line.
House Passes 2-Year Doc Fix and “Medicare Extenders” Package
The House on December 12 passed legislation by a vote of 234-193 that includes a 2-year “fix” to the Medicare sustainable growth rate for physician reimbursement. The bill would prevent the scheduled 27.4 cut in Medicare physician payments and instead increase the payment rates by 1 percent in 2012 and an additional 1 percent in 2013. The legislation also would extend the therapy caps exceptions process through December 31, 2013 with some modifications to the current process. The legislation would require that the physician reviewing the therapy plan of care be detailed on the claim. Claims above the spending cap that do not include the proper billing modifier would be rejected. A manual review would be required for all claims for high cost beneficiaries. The spending cap for 2012 would be $1880 and this cap would be extended to the hospital outpatient department setting. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the therapy caps provision of the legislation would reduce spending by $1.7 billion over 10 years.
The legislation relaxes current restrictions on physician-owned hospitals by allowing those facilities that were under construction but did not have a Medicare provider number as of December 31, 2010 to open and operate under the whole hospital exception to the Stark antitrust laws. The bill includes a reduction of $6.8 billion for hospital outpatient payments for evaluation and management and a reduction in Medicare “bad debt” payments that the CBO estimated would reduce spending by $10.6 billion over 10 years. The legislation also would increase Medicare premiums by 15 percent for high-income beneficiaries. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the bill would not pass the Senate. Reid said, “The bill passed by House Republicans tonight is a pointless, partisan exercise. The Senate will not pass it and the president has said he will veto it.”
The American Hospital Association (AHA) and eight other hospital groups sent a letter to Congress stating their strong opposition to using reductions in Medicare payments to hospitals and Medicaid funding to offset the scheduled physician payment cut. AHA is urging its members to oppose the cuts. The letter to Congress is available here.
Posted November 9, 2011
Ashley Annen, OTR/L, CLT
by Becky Lerner
Lymphedema is one of the most poorly-understood, underestimated, and least-researched diagnoses in the medical world. That is why it is so important to increase awareness by educating all healthcare professionals as well as affected communities: patients, their families and friends, and those especially vulnerable to the condition. I first found out about Lymphedema by glancing through a continuing education course catalog and realized that I had no idea what it was. It refers to a medical condition where swelling occurs, generally, in the arms or legs, although it can technically occur anywhere in the body. This occurs when protein-rich lymph fluid accumulates in the interstitial tissue, connective tissue between our cells, as a result of a blockage in the lymphatic system.
How does this happen? The two main causes of Lymphedema are: genetics (Primary) or the result damaged lymph nodes or lymph vessels from surgery, radiation, cancer, infection, or various other causes (Secondary). Some common symptoms of Lymphedema include: swelling; heaviness, fullness, or a tight feeling in the affected area; restricted movement in the joint; abnormal difficulty fitting into clothes, shoes, or jewelry; recurring infection; hardening or thickening of the skin; and feelings of discomfort in the affected area.
Swelling may range from mild, hardly-noticeable changes in the affected area to extreme swelling that can make functionality
difficult. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Lymphedema as of yet, but there are ways to manage it.
The first step is to be properly diagnosed by a doctor. Plain and simple, a clear diagnosis must be presented in order to qualify for treatment.
The next step is to be evaluated by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist to determine an individually-tailored treatment regimen to reduce swelling and control pain.
Possible treatment techniques range from manual therapy to compression bandaging.
- Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of gentle massage that encourages the flow of lymph fluid out of the affected limb.
- Compression Bandaging, or wrapping, helps keep the lymph fluid from returning to the affected limb by keeping pressure on the area.
- Exercises that focus on gentle contraction of the muscles in the area are common for Lymphedema in one of the limbs, the most common form.
- Compression Garments are an at-home treatment that, similar to compression bandaging, prevent the limb from swelling in the future.
To reduce the risk of developing Secondary Lymphedema, there are precautions to take. First, be careful! Avoid injury to the
affected area. If a limb is affected, elevate it as much as possible. Avoid tight clothing, and maintain good skin care to prevent infections.
Lymphedema does not need to be a life-long, debilitating condition. The sooner diagnosis and treatment begin, the better overall quality of life can be achieved. Please help us raise awareness of Lymphedema and all who are affected by it. For more information, visit The National Lymphedema Network, The Mayo Clinic, or contact us with questions.
Posted October 13, 2011
by Julie Bringas
I decided that I wanted to be a physical therapist when I was a junior in high school. “How,” you ask?
Well, I knew I was a “people-person” as so many of us are, and always felt drawn to the healthcare industry. I didn’t have the aspiration to go to school long enough to be a doctor and I was not interested in becoming a nurse. But as a Spanish assignment, I had to interview two professionals from different professions at my high school Career Fair. I found a physical therapist.
She was young and enthusiastic. And aside from my misconception that being a physical therapist meant giving massages, she enlightened me to the possibilities of physical therapy: the opportunities to work with everyone from
babies to seniors and the wide variety of work settings. I was immediately captured; it was perfect.
I became a physical therapist and worked with the senior population. It gave me great joy, not to just work with the patient, but to be involved with their families including spouses, children and grandchildren. I felt that I was able to inspire patients to do more than they thought they could, and there was nothing more gratifying to me than seeing a patient stroll out of the therapy department having entered unable to walk.
Now, 20 years since graduation, I am still proud of my profession and feel satisfied knowing that I have, and continue to, positively impact so many lives over the years. I hold a position that allows me to educate consumers and clients as to the benefits of physical therapy services and wellness programming. I work for a company that employs outstanding therapists who are extremely dedicated to their patients; and I personally feel like I have greater impact in promoting the profession at large. Certainly, I miss the hands-on contact with seniors on occasion. But when I go to our client sites, I always have a positive attitude and am excited to talk to the patients and get that face-to-face interaction that I so enjoyed.
During this PT Month, I reflect on the reasons I became a physical therapist, and ask you to do the same. I am thankful to work for a company that embraces its employees, providing exceptional opportunities for career growth and continuing education.
Posted September 23, 2011
September 23 marks a new day of awareness in the state of Illinois. Governor Quinn declared this day as “Older Adult Falls Prevention Day.” Aside from coinciding with the first day of Fall, Older Adult Falls Prevention Day (OAFPD) brings to light a topic that, inevitably, will be relevant to everyone. Whether you’re in the rehabilitation field, or simply caring for a parent, grandparent, or guardian, learning how to prevent a fall could be essential to staying healthy and functional. The Comprehensive Group celebrates OAFPD not just with “Stop Falls” signage and flashing buttons, but it takes a moment to remind its employees to spread the word of how to keep our older adult population safe by using fall prevention strategies.
In addition to company-wide initiatives to raise awareness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts some great safety tips online ranging from home care to staying active. Making sure medication is updated, installing grab bars, making everyday items easily accessible are all on the list as well as implementing coordination and balance exercises such as Tai Chi and yoga.
For other ideas on falls prevention and awareness activities, visit The Center for Healthy Aging.