To maximize clinical outcomes, it is important to implement specialized, results-driven rehab programs to meet wide needs of patients. RehabCare’s Smart Moves wellness program, launched in 2009, focuses on three aspects of wellness in support of active aging: fitness, health education and equipment tune-ups. The components of Smart Moves empower older adults to be proactive about their physical and mental health, and the benefits are many.

A personalized fitness plan based on a functional fitness assessment and an individual’s personal goals helps patients maintain their maximum physical potential and sustain their ability to live independently. Residents participate in different activities to maintain their strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Physical activity reduces the incidence of dozens of diseases and helps to prevent falls. “Focusing on gait and balance activities can reduce falls by 40%,” said Lauren Kriz, wellness director of operations for RehabCare.

Being physically active also has psychological advantages. “Physical activity has the capacity to touch the lives of residents in many different capacities related to mood,” said Kriz. For instance, strength training can ward off depression and improve sleep quality. In addition, Mary Gustafson recently reported in McKnight’s Long Term Care News that mild exercise (90-120 minutes of aerobics per week) may lessen depressive symptoms for congestive heart failure patients.

Socialization is an indirect psychological benefit of exercise that should not be overlooked, said Kriz. “Many of the residents become dedicated to exercise due to the joy and camaraderie around socializing with their peers.” The social aspect of physical activity is important.

On top of physical activity, patients also have the opportunity to learn from health education presentations. Regular topics include understanding incontinence, living with osteoporosis and low vision and home safety. Patients are free to ask questions during these presentations. They are also encouraged to contact the therapy team to request further information on a specific topic of personal interest.

For a number of residents, maintaining mobility equipment is as important as maintaining the body. Equipment tune-up clinics are therefore a popular part of Smart Moves. Staff members shine and adjust the devices, and patients receive expert advice on equipment appropriateness and possible upgrades.

So far, 130 facilities participate in Smart Moves. At the facility level, Smart Moves is typically implemented by the therapy director. In addition, twenty wellness coordinators support the different facilities. When a wellness coordinator is dedicated to one site, programming efforts tend to be more robust.

Therapy directors like to be able to offer the Smart Moves program in conjunction with regular therapy. “The facility staff that partners with RehabCare in their wellness efforts are excited by how we can help enhance their current product or provide them with a full wellness program,” said Kriz.

By Margaret Schmidt