RCH Rehabilitation Services Department helps patients to regain mobility, quality of life

‘It's about being able to see them come in here and gain strength, motion and functional ability’


ROCHELLE — The transition into the summer months brings an increase in referrals for the Rochelle Community Hospital Rehabilitation Services Department, Evan Tracy, the department’s manager, said.

RCH has licensed physical therapists and an occupational therapist on staff that can create a personalized rehabilitation program for patients recovering from surgery, an injury or an illness. It recently renovated and expanded its Rehabilitation Services Department for more space, added staff, new equipment and more.

“In the winter it's cold out and people are living much more sedentary lifestyles,” Tracy said. “That can have an impact on the aging population. A saying we use is, 'You move it or you lose it.' If you're not standing up and walking around a lot or having that everyday movement, some people will sit around a lot in the winter months and when it gets nice, they don't move as well as they could be. Because their muscles have atrophied and weakness and tightness have set in. The best thing people can do is continue to get up and move and walk around. Stretching is a great idea to stay fit because the less you move, the tighter your muscles get in the position you're in. Daily activity like walking and stretching is important and goes a long way.”

RCH’s Occupational Therapist Cindi Palmer and its physical therapists are experts in mobility and help people get around in their daily routines and lives. Occupational therapy focuses in on patients’ ability to do daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.

“Tips and tricks to prevent injuries would include stretching frequently throughout your day and avoiding repetitive activities, setting up an ergonomically-correct computer space at home, and reducing falls by removing trip hazards,” Palmer said.

Tracy said the Rehabilitation Services Department is currently seeing high demand. It typically takes patients that have been referred there by a doctor. Patients first get evaluated by rehab staff and then a treatment plan is set up. Therapy can take place 1-3 times per week for 2-8 weeks. In the cases of patients recovering from surgery, those individuals can be seen for up to 4-6 months, Tracy said.

Local patients are able to get access to rehab services locally by using RCH’s service, Tracy said.

“A lot of our patients that we see here have doctors from out of town,” Tracy said.”It's nice to have a rehab facility here in town where we can treat community members here. Our goal is always to get our patients in, evaluate them and find out what their lifestyles and goals are with mobility and teach them how to do these exercises at home. That's the ultimate goal. We want them to be able to learn here and take it home and reproduce those gains at home. We want to teach them how to deal with it on a daily basis and improve their lifestyle.”

Much of RCH Rehab Services’ work involves the elderly community and helping those individuals to combat arthritis and keep mobility up. Tracy advised people in the community to go see a doctor if they’re experiencing pain or limited mobility to ensure that those problems don’t persist and impact their mobility. The longer a problem goes unchecked for, the longer it will take to get function back, he said.

“As we age, the natural part of the human body is arthritis setting in and causing pain and then it's kind of a snowball effect,” Tracy said. “You get a little bit of pain so you stop moving and then weakness sets in. And then you can't move. That's when people go to the doctor and end up here and we have to coach them on improving strength and range of motion to decrease symptoms and pain so they can move better and feel better. Then they can spend more time with family and grandchildren and do things like go to ball games.”

Tracy called working in the department and helping patients to get mobility back “very rewarding.” Physical limitations can also impact patients’ mental health and RCH physical and occupational therapists can act as coaches to work on bringing patients’ spirits up. Tracy has seen patients come in at their lowest after suffering physical trauma that have worked to a point where they can live their life without pain or physical disability.

“Some are struggling after getting injured and their lives have been turned upside down,” Tracy said. “The benefits of being able to help them improve, no matter what's going on, is great. It's about being able to see them come in here and gain strength, motion and functional ability like walking with better quality. The most rewarding part of this job is being able to teach people things here and then see them at the grocery store moving around and reaching up high for things. That's one of my favorite parts of working in my hometown, helping people I know and seeing them thrive in the community.”