Do you wake up with a wheeze in your chest? Is it getting a little harder to climb stairs?
Maybe it's just normal aging, but more and more Americans today are being diagnosed with a pulmonary disorder.
Asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis and other pulmonary disorders are on the rise in the U.S. In fact, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Yet most of us know very little about pulmonary disorders - until someone we know is diagnosed.
Part of the reason for COPD's low profile is that - with the exception of asthma - most pulmonary disorders are primarily diseases of aging. But with the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, we can expect to see dramatic increases in a wide range of lung and pulmonary diseases.
Gearing up to meet the challenge
Here in Ocean County, one skilled nursing center is gearing up to meet the challenge.
Last year, Whiting Healthcare in Whiting, NJ created a comprehensive pulmonary clinical and rehabilitation program for its patients. The program is the first of its kind in Ocean County.
"Our program is outcome-based and personalized for each individual patient," says
Diane Delaney, executive director of Whiting Healthcare. "The goal is to provide care, therapy, education and support to patients so that when they leave us, they have the tools to successfully manage their condition at home."
Creating the care team was critical to the establishment of Whiting's pulmonary rehab program. "One of the most important things we did was to hire a board-certified pulmonologist to oversee patient care," said Delaney. "Our pulmonologist meets with each patient weekly to review his or her progress, and is also available for physician consults on individual cases."
A multi-disciplinary approach
The Whiting pulmonary rehab team also includes a full time program manager and registered respiratory therapists on duty seven days a week. In addition, all nursing staff in the unit have received advanced training in pulmonary care. And, because respiratory patients require a high level of care, the staff-to-patient ratio is also at an optimum level.
Patients in Whiting's pulmonary rehab program receive a variety of therapies, depending on their competencies and challenges.
"We see a wide range of patients, and so we tailor the program to meet their needs," says Delaney. "For example, some patients with serious breathing disorders can actually build up lung function through a carefully supervised exercise program. And that can mean a huge improvement in their quality of life and their independence."
And, unlike most other skilled nursing centers, Whiting's respiratory unit features piped-in oxygen from a wall-mounted unit, which offers a higher concentration to patients.
Giving patients the "STAR" treatmen
Not all of the rehab program is focused on breathing, notes Delaney. "Pulmonary disorders can affect speech and swallowing ability as well, so speech therapy, nutritional counseling and individual dysphagia management may be included in a patient's program. The goal is to address every aspect of the patientís challenges."
But while the pulmonary rehab program at Whiting is therapeutically grounded, it's the non-therapy component that most patients actually like best. As a member of the Revera family of skilled nursing centers, Whiting features the exclusive STAR rehab program. STAR rehab is known for its emphasis on patient comfort, with beautifully-decorated rooms, a personal concierge, wireless Internet service, meals cooked to order, even spa services. A heart-healthy menu is also available every day.
"The truth is that no patients really want to be in rehab," laughs Delaney. "We try to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible. Ideally, they will leave us feeling stronger, healthier, relaxed and refreshed."