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Lessons re-learned

Therapy at Sanford Health Sunset Drive Continuing Care Center helps woman
regain independence after stroke
After Cecelia Kuntz suffered a stroke last year, her goal was to be as independent as possible and live outside of the nursing home setting.

She now lives in a studio apartment that provides assisted living. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without the therapy I received at Sanford Health Sunset Drive Continuing Care Center,” she said.

Kuntz, 85, had been living alone in her Mandan apartment. “I had done everything for myself, including shopping, cooking and driving,” she said. “It was a terrible feeling to no longer be able to do the little things you take for granted. I couldn’t even dress myself anymore.”

Her stroke affected her left side. She could no longer use her left hand or walk. She was dependent on others to move her wheelchair and required assistance transferring to a
  Cecelia Kuntz choose Medcenter One Living Centers for her rehabilitation
A stroke threatened to take away Cecelia Kuntz's independence, but the rehabilitation therapy services she received at the Sanford Health Sunset Drive Continuing Care Center helped her return to apartment living.
chair or bed. Unable to return to her apartment after being discharged from the hospital, she chose Sanford Health Sunset Drive Continuing Care Center for her care and rehabilitation.

Dannette Huber
Dannette Huber
Physical therapist
Sanford Health

Hannah Zimmerman Hannah Zimmerman
Occupational therapist
Sanford Health

  “As therapists, our goal is to help patients reach maximum independence,” said Hannah Zimmerman, an occupational therapist with the Sanford Health Continuing Care Centers, which include two living centers in Mandan, one in Bismarck and an independent living center in Bismarck. “While many associate nursing homes as the place where elderly people live the rest of their lives, there has been a shift to nursing homes as a place for people of all ages to recover after hospital discharge. We can provide nursing care as well as rehabilitation.”

All continuing care centers owned and operated by Sanford Health offer a team approach to therapy provided by occupational, physical and speech therapists.

“We see patients with conditions including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain injury and bone fractures,” said Dannette Huber, a Sanford Health Continuing Care Centers physical therapist.

Kuntz’s physical therapy focused on walking, strengthening and improving her balance while standing. “We determined she would not be able to walk long distances, so we focused on maneuvering a power wheelchair and worked on transferring and functioning independently from it,” Huber said.

For several weeks, Kuntz also had speech therapy focused on cognitive functioning including memory, awareness, reasoning and safety awareness.

“Cecelia had movement in her left arm but wasn’t able to do tasks involving fine motor coordination, like buttoning,” Zimmerman said. “A patient often forgets about the side affected by the stroke. We had to retrain her brain to increase awareness of the left side of her body and the environment on that side. She had to learn daily activities in a modified way because she could no longer do things the way she had before the stroke.”

Before Kuntz was discharged in late July, she had to demonstrate her ability to safely care for herself. “She functioned independently at our facility, and then we had therapy sessions in her home to make certain she could function independently and as safely as possible there,” Zimmerman said. Kuntz’s prime mode of transportation is a power wheelchair. She can stand by herself and transfer from the power wheelchair to every surface she needs to go to.

Kuntz is able to complete her bathroom and grooming routine and dress herself. She also has learned other activities of daily living, such as cooking and tidying her kitchen.

“Cecelia was extremely motivated to be as independent as possible, and her family was a phenomenal support system,” Zimmerman said. “She was also realistic and knew she may have to move from her apartment to an assisted-living facility.”

“My daughter stayed with me for several weeks after I returned home, helping me as minimally as possible,” Kuntz said. “After two weeks of rehabilitation as a hospital patient, I moved to this studio apartment. I’m glad to be here instead of in a nursing home.”

She takes herself to the dining room for meals and has assistance with bathing and laundry.

“I don’t consider myself a nursing home patient because I can do so many things for myself,” Kuntz said. “I would not have come as far as I have without Dannette and Hannah. I can’t thank them enough.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Health Sunset Drive Continuing Care Center services.

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