Amputees in the Nashville, Tennessee, area have a unique resource for therapy and education: Life Care Center of Hickory Woods in Antioch.
Susie Pech, occupational therapist assistant at the building, got the ball rolling for more services for amputees, both for residents and patients at the building, and for community members.
In 2007, Hanger Corporation, which deals in prosthetics and orthotics, asked Pech to go to a training to learn how to run a support group. She took part in the eight-week course, Promoting Amputee Life Skills, which covered topics such as dealing with pain and dealing with limb loss.
“I’m the only person in the state of Tennessee who has this training,” Pech shared.
Pech brought that expertise to Life Care Center of Hickory Woods when she started working at the building in 2017. She also started a support group for amputees at the center.
The group meets the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 11 a.m.
Pech has seen the support group help amputees open up about their experiences and find solutions and healing, both physical and emotional.
“They don’t talk about everything to just anyone,” Pech said. “But when they get in this group, they start talking. It teaches them to advocate for themselves, how to cope with being out in public, how to deal with their families. Everybody responds differently.”
Pech remembered one lady who especially benefitted from the group. The lady would cry when she saw herself in the mirror, but the support group helped her cope with the loss of her limb.
Life Care Center of Hickory Woods not only offers the support group but has therapists who have been trained in specific modalities to treat amputees. Parent company Life Care Centers of America is partners with Hanger and its business segment Accelerated Care Plus, which develops rehab modalities and treatment protocols.
Although Life Care doesn’t work exclusively with Hanger for prosthetics and orthotics, the partnership provides an avenue both for this equipment and for training.
“Hanger Clinic prosthetists and orthotists provide on-site visits for initial evaluation for any patient upon receipt of an order,” said Erik Larsen, director of Hanger’s post-acute rehabilitation division in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. “This reduces the need for transportation to a local Hanger Clinic, but more importantly, this on-site evaluation process allows our Hanger Clinic clinicians to determine the best course of treatment for Life Care patients in conjunction with the treating Life Care therapist.”
Hanger and several other companies have provided on-site training and continuing education events at the facility as well, which have drawn therapists from the area to the building for learning.
In working with Life Care at these trainings, Larsen shared, “We’ve received very positive feedback and believe the trainings allow the therapists and nurses to better understand the methods of treatment with an orthotist or prosthetist. Because of past, current and future CEU [continuing education unit] courses, we anticipate continuing to provide education to Life Care therapists and nurses for a very long time.”
Pech and her fellow therapists have appreciated the trainings.
“We have a great environment here,” said Pech. “People come and ask questions because they want to learn.”
On the modalities side, the partnership with ACP has allowed therapists at the center and throughout Life Care to learn how to use ACP modalities to treat the needs of amputees.
Amy Hobbs, ACP representative, shared that ACP offers a course in Residual Limb Therapy for the post-acute setting, where amputees often come after their amputation.
“When therapists intervene early on, the better the outcomes,” Hobbs said, emphasizing the importance of post-acute providers’ role in amputee healing.
The course teaches therapists about the elements of wound care, as well as how to address pain and use neuromuscular reeducation. For example, the PENS unit, e-stim, ultrasound and diathermy provided by ACP can address this healing process and reduce pain.
As for the future, Life Care and Hanger are working to make ACP’s Residual Limb Therapy training, as well as three Hanger courses, available to all Life Care associates on Life Care University, Life Care’s online educational website.
The three Hanger courses in the works are Post-Operative Modalities for Lower-Limb Amputations, Overview of Lower Extremity Prostheses and Lower-Limb Prostheses: Design to Ambulation.
“Hanger Clinic is very excited to continue to grow with Life Care Centers of America, and with the newly added online CEU courses becoming available, we believe all therapists will benefit from the added education,” Larsen said.
Clemente Aquino, vice president of rehab practice standards, added that Life Care is also looking to expand Life Care Center of Hickory Woods’ support group concept, as well as the educational opportunities, to other parts of the country.