by Mary Dillinger, Public Affairs Officer, Northern Arizona VA Health Care System

Northern Arizona VA Health Care System’s (NAVAHCS) Community Living Center’s (CLC) Restorative Team includes a restorative care coordinator and two restorative care technicians. By working closely with VA providers and staff in other services, the team provides specific and customized care for veterans. 

“Our restorative care program has been very successful in maximizing our patient’s abilities,” said Barbara Oemcke, Medical Center Director.  “Veterans in the dementia ward, short- and long-term care areas and even hospice, have benefited from this innovative program that offers veterans the ability to maintain and improve quality of life, especially through mobilization, increasing socialization and decreasing isolation.” 

When in the CLC, many veterans lose hope, as well as the drive and desire to interact with others, participate in activities and sometimes even get out of bed. The Restorative Care Program motivates veterans to get up and go. It helps veterans and staff work together to achieve veteran-centered goals. Some areas of focus are walk-to-dine, range of motion, bed mobility, dining, communication and daily activities. 

The restorative care coordinator assesses veterans for areas of need, what they are hoping to accomplish and how best to make it happen.

“Many veterans enter the CLC with limited ability to handle daily tasks; after the Restorative Care Program, they go home having achieved their maximum functional ability,” said Kristy Romero, BSN, CRRN, CHPN, Restorative Care Coordinator at NAVAHCS. “Our program incorporates one-on-one interactions, group exercise and communication between nursing and therapies to provide a 24/7 approach including weekends. This offers a holistic opportunity for staff-veteran-family connections through an interdisciplinary approach all focused on helping the veteran accomplish their goals.” 

One CLC patient, John McCraw, was reluctant to participate in the program or any activities for that matter. McCraw, a 78-year-old Marine Corps and Coast Guard veteran, ate alone in his room every day and had not walked in over 20 years. He had multiple falls, was extremely underweight and not cooperative with staff. 

“Our restorative care staff began working with Mr. McCraw, and within only a few short weeks his whole demeanor changed and he now refers to the team as ‘my girls,’” said Jean Brennan, MSN, Lac, RN. He now exercises on a regular basis with staff, eats in the dining room with fellow veterans and is at a healthy weight. 

Restorative Care and Recreational Therapy developed group exercise classes involving getting up and moving, resistance-weight training, music, stretching and beach ball volley. Veterans also have fun in the Let’s Roll and Let’s Get Moving groups.

“We use many different resources to care for our veterans who need assistance with eating, getting out of bed and working out,” said Oemcke.  “CLC staff work together to care for our nation’s heroes and provide them the best possible care.”