Dedication of Extendicare Kirkland Lake's staff helps to turn resident’s life around

A year ago, Mr. K, an Extendicare Kirkland Lake resident, had given up on life and was ready to receive palliative and end-of-life care. He had several complex-care issues, including Parkinson’s disease, dementia and osteoarthritis. He had lost all mobility. When he was diagnosed with low-pressure hydrocephalus and was told he needed surgery, he declined.

He told the long-term care home’s staff that he wanted to die.

But the home’s staff members weren’t ready to give up on Mr. K. He was encouraged to eat and drink more, and over the next few weeks became more responsive. After consulting with Mr. K’s wife, Mr. K began working with the home’s physiotherapist on passive range-of-motion exercises. These exercises see physiotherapists help people bend their arms, legs and wrists to slowly increase mobility.

Mr. K was cheered on every step of the way by the team, says Jennifer Kasner, the home’s administrator, noting his condition slowly began to improve.

“He slowly regained strength to get up for meals in his wheelchair and was communicating with staff and his wife,” Kasner says. “He then decided to have the surgery and told the staff he wanted to live and play an active role in his grandchildren’s lives. His surgery was a success. He was determined to regain his strength to walk and feed himself again on his own. He reported that he was too young to die.”

Throughout the next 12 months, Mr. K participated in physiotherapy, nursing rehabilitation and restorative care programs. After completing passive range-of-motion exercises, Mr. K moved to active range-of-motion exercises, which involve people moving their arms and legs on their own.

Mr. K participated in the home’s walking program and has progressed from walking with a transfer belt with two staff members, to walking with a walker and two staff members for support, to using a walker with the help of only one staff member to walking independently with a walker and cane, Kasner says.

With persistence, Mr. K was eventually able to go from a sitting position to standing with staff assistance, she adds.

Mr. K also began feeding himself independently. He began attending sessions with the nursing rehabilitation feeding program. Working in the program, Mr. K was able to feed himself in six months using weighted utensils.

After almost a year, Mr. K was able to go home with his wife for the weekends. He was able to get into and out of a vehicle without difficulty and walk without an assistive device. His mood lifted and he appeared as a totally different man, Kasner says.

“The staff persevered through his responsive behaviours and never gave up hope that they would assist Mr. K in regaining his ability to walk,” she says.

“He was happy. He was social. He started making beaded jewelry for friends and family. He was living again.”