Hope fuels comebacks for many rehab patients

Desire to return home or reunite with loved ones drives many to do well in physical therapy

'Age-Positivity' Could Be the Key to a Long Life

No one told Evette Oates they didn’t think she was going to live.

But some thought it.

“I was no longer able to walk,” said Oates, a retired public servant who lived independently in northwest Atlanta before an unusually aggressive neuropathy devastated her body in 2022, leaving her bedridden. “I needed all kinds of assistance with eating, drinking … there was really nothing I could do for myself.”

Some of Oates’ friends visited her in that debilitated state. She later learned they thought she was dying.

Fast forward to today, and Oates can not only feed herself, walk and perform basic self-care, she’s also leading a life of fulfillment where she enjoys plants, music and visits with friends.

Physical rehabilitation, which she receives through A.G. Rhodes’ long-term care home in Atlanta, played a key role in her recovery.

And she’s not alone. It’s no surprise that as adults age, the likelihood of needing rehab to recover from an illness or injury goes up.

Evette Oates helps prepare orchid centerpieces for a luncheon as part of a horticultural therapy session during a Generation Connect summer service camp at A.G. Rhodes.

Credit: Evette Oates

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Credit: Evette Oates

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, getting quality care can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life. Physical therapy — movement aimed at helping a patient build or regain function — is typically a major part of the larger rehab process, along with occupational therapy, which helps address deficits that affect daily living, such as being able to dress or feed oneself. Rehab also can be needed for recovery from an injury, illness or major health event, such as a stroke.

DJ Owoyomi is A.G. Rhodes’ director of rehabilitation for Wesley Woods, Cobb and Atlanta, where he oversees a team of physical therapists and support staff, including those on Oates’ care team. Owoyomi said a patient’s motivation plays a key role in returning to health, especially among older adults. So does continuity of care and a patient-centered approach, he added.

“I have seen 90-year-old patients that have recovered from a major stroke, a 100-year-old that walked after fractures on the hip, patients that have been on hospice that recovered and returned to normal life,” he said.

Owoyomi said working in his profession for 21 years has given him a firsthand look into individuals’ ability to recover from difficult situations. At A.G. Rhodes, 89% of patients return to their prior level of function following care, he said.

Jo Faddis engages in physical rehabilitation at Wesley Woods.

Credit: Jo Faddis

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Credit: Jo Faddis

“Having hope is essential to their success,” he said. “If a patient is positive-minded and hopeful to return home to his or her spouse or family, they recover faster with good outcomes.”

Hope of becoming more independent was key for Jo Faddis, a retired psychotherapist who received outpatient care through A.G. Rhodes after a fall left her with a broken hip followed by a three-month hospital stay where she also battled COVID-19 and pneumonia.

“It’s amazing what physical therapy can do,” Faddis said. “I’ve come from being bedridden to being up and able to get in the car by myself, go to my doctor appointments, or go out to lunch. It’s been a major change from when I came out of the hospital.”

Faddis said accepting her situation and committing to keep pushing were important to her success. But quality care is essential, she added, noting the staff who worked with her were skilled, positive and caring.

Rehab is often intense, but for patients like Oates and Faddis, the results can be life changing. “Trust the process,” Oates said. “It’s as simple as that.”