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Advocating for Your Health

Advocating for Your Health

March 15, 2024

It finally feels like summer! Most of us go about our daily routines without giving any thought to how suddenly things could change. Good health is something we tend to take for granted. Years ago, working in a large metropolitan hospital as a young professional, I was reminded daily how abruptly life can change, because of trauma or a sudden medical condition. With a young family I often struggled with this and when my father was diagnosed with a serious medical condition, it prompted me to change my career path. One of the reasons I love working with older adults is because they are wise, most having witnessed and experienced firsthand how life can change in a moment. Our Ridgecrest Village (RCV) residents inspire me daily. They embrace the fullness that all life has to offer with zest and enthusiasm, regardless of what may lie ahead for themselves, their families, or friends. Let me introduce Laura Henneman, a former RCV resident. She is a walking success story. Her experience is a reminder of how critical it is for each of us to advocate for our own health and the power of positive thinking in the face of trauma.

Laura is an active lady with a positive energy that sizzles around her. She is an avid walker, hiking all over the United States. Last year she hiked the Mighty Five in Utah. Laura experienced an onset of hip pain in January; was ultimately referred to an orthopedic surgeon who told her that she had transient osteoporosis in her right hip; a rare condition which typically takes six months to a year to heal with rest. Laura has never had a baseline bone density scan. No one was more surprised than Laura when she sustained a serious high fracture of her right femur by simply getting up out of a chair one day in March. She had surgery the following day after she was informed about the seriousness of her condition and risk of surgery, including possible impaired mobility or death. She said, “I really thought I was going to die.”

After surgery Laura was told that her bone appeared spongy and it was likely she would be non-weight bearing (NWB) for up to a year, meaning no weight on that leg. She said, “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t walk or do anything for myself. I was not happy at all…I’m very self-sufficient, the one who helps other people. It was terrible.” She didn’t want anyone to know and was angry. She blamed herself and wondered if she had done something to deserve this. “Then I started feeling sorry for myself.” The discharge planners at the hospital gave her a “list” of places she could consider for rehabilitation. It was her daughter-in-law, knowing Ridgecrest had a skilled care unit (Crest Health Center), who directed her to Crest as a rehab option.

Gina VerBeke, Crest Health Center Program Manager, said, “Laura surprised us right away. Most people who come to skilled care with NWB typically have a short stay as we are limited to working primarily on wheelchair transfers and independence.” This was not the case with Laura who immediately started working on ways to be ambulatory using only one leg. The entire team was stunned when she returned from her six-week check-up with orders to progress to partial weight bearing, which meant that Laura could start using her injured leg just slightly! Laura said, “I was so scared when my doctor told me that. I had to go back and discuss it with Gina and the team before I believed it.” All were even more stunned when Laura quickly progressed to full weight bearing and is now living back at home, her mobility restored. VerBeke added, “Laura’s steady progression helped her success in therapy and her determined attitude played a big part in her getting to her previous functional level and eventual return home.”

Should you ever find yourself in this situation, be thinking about where you want to go after your hospital stay because once it happens, there is little time to do research, especially during a stressful emotional medical event. You, like Laura, may be given a preferred provider list with some options with the explanation, “These are the skilled units who we work with frequently and may be a good place to start.” Because of the pressure on hospitals from insurance carriers to discharge patients as soon as medically appropriate, there are times when patients find themselves being placed in a facility which most readily responds to the referral call, not necessarily their first choice. Some of you may not know that Ridgecrest is among these options and can be considered for post hospital care at Crest Health Care.

Laura is a prime example of the importance of advocating for one’s own health right from the start, securing the right post hospital care so all energy can be directed into a successful recovery. With proper planning you can do the same!

Julie Arndt is a licensed social worker and Director of Marketing at Ridgecrest Village with over 30 years’ experience working in the field of geriatrics and senior advocacy.

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