At age 85, Melvin Clarke kept a schedule that would challenge someone 30 years younger. He push-mowed yards for his neighbors, visited with those who were less mobile, attended church several times a week, and cared for his wife.
In spring 2017, he fell while stepping on a fireplace hearth to reset a clock for Daylight Savings Time. He hit his head, but he was still lucid and walked to the ambulance, his daughter Amy Dezarn recalled.
Clarke was admitted to Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. He soon fell into a coma due to a brain bleed. Doctors didn’t expect him to survive. But he woke up 15 days later, paralyzed on his left side, in need of rehabilitation.
Today, the 88-year-old is back to mowing lawns, going to church, and caring for his wife. Dezarn credits the swing-bed services at LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes for her dad’s recovery.
“People need to know that hospital saved my father’s life,” she said.
What are Swing-bed Services?
As a designated critical access hospital (CAH), LifeBrite must have a maximum of 25 inpatient beds for acute care or swing-bed services. Medicare covers acute care costs for a limited number of days. After that, most patients are encouraged to transfer to swing-bed care.
Swing bed is a Medicare program that allows acute care patients to continue their recovery at a CAH where they can receive nursing and rehabilitative care.
Brooke Johnson-Smith is director of rehab for LifeBrite in Danbury, N.C. She says swing bed provides a critical bridge for patients recovering from surgery or illness.
“A lot of patients just aren’t ready to go home yet,” said Johnson-Smith. “We see a lot of geriatric patients at our hospital. When they are treated for pneumonia or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), three to five days in acute care isn’t long enough for them to regain normal function.”
Not nursing-home services
Many people confuse swing-bed services with nursing-home services. However, they aren’t the same, Johnson-Smith stressed.
“The swing bed program offers short-term rehab where our goal is for patients to be able to return home,” Johnson-Smith said. “Our basic goal is to assist with recovery and regaining skills you need to resume your everyday life.”
Rehab typically includes physical therapy to improve mobility. In addition, it includes occupational therapy to ensure patients regain the skills needed for bathing, dressing, and other daily functional tasks.
Patients receiving treatment at larger area hospitals such as Forsyth, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro can get swing-bed services at affiliates. However, there are benefits to transferring to a smaller facility closer to home like LifeBrite, Johnson-Smith says.
“The patient-to-provider ratio is much smaller here — they get one-on-one service. Some larger facilities may provide therapy in groups. We never provide therapy in a group setting,” Johnson-Smith said.
Perhaps the most meaningful benefit of receiving swing-bed therapy near your home is proximity to your friends and loved ones, she said. Their visits encourage patients to keep pushing to regain the mobility and skills needed to resume their daily activities.
Johnson-Smith noted that Clarke’s daughter and grandson visited him every day during his therapy. Members of his church visited as well.
“Our staff is motivating and uplifting,” she said. “Having family, a close-knit community (nearby) makes a difference.”
Seeing progress daily
When Clarke left Forsyth, he initially went to a facility near the larger hospital for rehabilitation. At that time, he couldn’t walk, stand, or feed himself.
“He couldn’t do anything,” Dezarn said.
Clarke started losing weight, and his medications needed regulating. His daughter called LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, where she had once worked as an emergency room technician. Administrator Pam Tillman told her he could receive therapy through the hospital’s swing bed services.
“I was so grateful,” she said.
Dezarn documented her father’s care, taking photos of him every day when she visited.
“We could see the progress in him,” she said. Eventually, he could feed and dress himself. Dr. Kirk Sanders worked to regulate his medications, and Clarke continued making progress. Dezarn says she felt so relieved and reassured by the care he received there.
“It’s the comfort of knowing they are taking care of your loved ones the way you would want,” she said. Eventually, he was able to go home and resume his life. “He is an excellent testament to what rehab can do,” said Johnson-Smith.
Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early and LifeBrite Laboratories. To learn more about LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, visit our homepage.