4/16/19

Most vulnerable kids now can receive therapy services at home

Going anywhere with a newborn was a challenge for Amy and Dontay Lawrence of Urbana. Their daughter, Harlow, went home from the Carle Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with a feeding tube.

“Not only did I have to pack her up, but since she was on a 24-hour feeding tube, I had to pack an extra backpack with her food,” Amy said. “Going anywhere was way more difficult.”

Thankfully, Harlow was one of the first pediatric patients to receive home therapy from Carle Home Services. In addition to skilled nursing, Home Services is expanding to provide physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology services to infants and children in Carle’s 19-county service area.

To find out if your child could receive in-home health services, please talk with your pediatrician. To find out more about Home Services, call (217) 383-3488.

“People do better in their home. It makes a more natural fit,” said Jennifer Wilken, RN, MSN, director, Home Care and Hospice. “Patients and parents are more comfortable. When Mom or Dad need to help with the exercises, they know how to translate it into the home. For the kiddos, it becomes a natural habit.”

Infants and children eligible for home services include those who:

  • are discharged from the NICU
  • have long-term medical problems
  • are weak from surgery
  • are at risk of infection
  • would be too exhausted by a car ride to receive outpatient therapy

“This is about more than convenience, but addressing the needs of the medically fragile patient,” said Heidi Morris, PT, MPT, supervisor, Home Services.

Harlow spent 46 days in the NICU after being born without a heartbeat. Once she was home, a Carle Home Services nurse visited twice a week for a month. An occupational therapist visited once a week to help Harlow catch up on developmental milestones.

“Knowing someone was coming to me was fabulous,” Amy said.

Harlow is now 6 months old. While she is delayed in meeting some milestones, her body movement and muscle tone are becoming more like typical infants her age. Her therapy sessions are now every other week, and she will soon begin therapy through the state’s Early Intervention program. Her mom says Harlow is very spirited with a strong personality.

“If you look at her now, you’d never know about her delayed start,” Amy said.

Wilken added, “For many children, home care is not the long-term answer. Carle Home Services can be a bridge to Early Intervention. We want to fill the gap where we can.”

Morris said pediatric patients from the NICU like Harlow are at the highest risk of developmental delay.

“Now they can start making gains getting caught back up instead of getting further behind in their development,” Morris said.

For Harlow’s family, the reality of that shows up every day.

“I think it’s a wonderful program and a wonderful service,” Amy said. “Without this I think we would still be at square one.”