Maintaining Independence

Holocaust survivor gains function, mobility through a higher level of care.

As a young girl ln Austria, Helen Lipsman lived in fear of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime that held power in Germany during World War II. Fortunately, Helen possessed a talent that could be exploited by Hitler’s army, so she escaped many of the horrors that occurred during that conflict.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Helen (center) is surrounded by her
granddaughter Dawn (left) and daughter Ruth (right).

“My mom is a Holocaust survivor,” confirms Ruth Morgan, Helen’s daughter. “Anyone who was capable of working was safe. The Germans took advantage of people’s skills, and my mother had some. She knew how to sew, so they used her to sew the German officers’ uniforms. She was lucky that she survived.

“In the 1950s, my mom left Austria, and my parents came to the United States with my brother and me. My parents owned a bakery in New York. My dad did all of the baking, and my mom ran the business. They were hardworking and did a great job. They couldn’t speak English, however, they still succeeded at everything they did.

“Mom was active within the community. She gave away milk, bread and cookies on Tuesday nights when the bakery was closing. All the people in the area who were hungry came to the bakery, and Mom gave them food to eat. I used to call her the mayor of Pelham Parkway after the neighborhood where the bakery was located.”

Helen’s term as “mayor” eventually came to a close, and she moved to Florida. As she entered her senior years, she suffered several injuries, including torn ligaments in her shoulder and a fractured hip. In her quest to regain function and mobility following those mishaps, Helen, 96, has always reached out to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast.

“At times, physicians refer older patients to skilled nursing facilities after they leave the hospital, but they do not receive the same care they get at Encompass Health,” Ruth explains.

“Encompass Health is more geared toward therapy and making improvements in walking and performing activities of daily living so patients can return to a better state of health. We believed Encompass Health was the better option for Mom’s rehabilitation, so that’s where we requested she be sent.”

Like Helen, many people today are living into their 90s and longer. Because of their age, elderly patients are at times sent to nursing homes following an illness, injury or surgery, asserts Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at Encompass Health. That doesn’t have to be the case, she says.

“We believe that the senior population deserves to receive the benefits of our higher level of care,” Dawn notes. “In most cases, these patients can participate in our acute rehab program and return home to their families safer and stronger, and at their prior level of function.

“Helen has multiple medical conditions. She has a history of stroke and congestive heart failure. She had hip-fracture surgery and wears a pacemaker. We offer programs that specifically address conditions such as these. In fact, we are certified in stroke and hip-fracture rehabilitation.”

As an acute rehabilitation hospital, the only one in Vero Beach and the surrounding area, Encompass Health offers patients such as Helen a higher level of care than rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. Encompass Health differs from those facilities in length of stay, amount and intensity of therapy, and degree of physician involvement.

“Our patients receive daily physician visits, rehab-certified nursing care and at least three hours of therapy a day, every day,” Dawn points out. “At other facilities, patients generally receive less than one or two hours of therapy a day and are required to be seen by a physician only once every 30 days.”

For patients, especially elderly patients, navigating through the recovery process following an illness, injury or surgery can be overwhelming. But the senior population deserves the best rehabilitation possible in the most beneficial setting. It’s important that they and their families understand the differences in rehab facilities.

“Encompass Health stands out because of our advanced rehab treatments, clinical specialists and comprehensive programs that deliver fully coordinated care,” Dawn informs. “These advantages ensure that patients receive the best care for their individual needs.

“But elderly patients may need an advocate. People with advanced age typically have other health-related issues, and getting the medical care available at Encompass Health is often the best way to get seniors back to the community and living healthy.

“In all cases, it is important that patients and families ask for Encompass Health by name,” Dawn emphasizes.

“A Changed Person”

During each of Helen’s visits to Encompass Health, her function and mobility improved significantly, and she returned home stronger. Ruth says taking Helen to Encompass Health was an excellent decision.

Ruth gives kudos to the physicians and staff at Encompass Health.

“The doctors make rounds daily, sometimes twice a day, and they are so caring,” she describes. “They actually sit and talk with Mom to find out how she’s feeling. And they are easily accessible to us to discuss what’s going on with Mom’s care.

“The staff is warm and friendly. They’re very geared to the needs of patients and respond to the nurse call bell very quickly. They’re attuned to what’s going on with Mom right off the top of their heads. They don’t have to look up anything.”

Currently, Helen lives a fulfilling life in Vero Beach with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is surrounded by family members who love and care for her. But Helen insists on performing many activities of daily living on her own including dressing and using the bathroom.

“I believe that came from being at Encompass Health, because they teach patients how to live independently,” Ruth relates. “Part of their care is aimed at making sure patients can go home and do things for themselves. Every time my mom leaves Encompass Health, she’s a changed person.”

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