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This story was originally published in the 2013 June/July issue of Chattanooga Magazine. 

When Linda Skyles had total knee replacement surgery last February, she was in the hospital for three days. Skyles was then transferred to the Life Care Center of Ooltewah, a newly built, skilled-nursing rehabilitation facility.

“I went in on a stretcher and I walked out completely unassisted,” says Skyles. The 10-day recuperation period gave the 71-year-old former nurse the opportunity to make a healthy transition from hospital to home. “I feel I had the best care possible.”

The 75-thousand-square-foot facility is convenient to the fast-growing Ooltewah, Collegedale, Cleveland area, located across from a new Publix, off Interstate-75. The attractive craftsman architectural style fits neatly into the surrounding landscape.

The courtyard and entrance to Life Care Center of Ooltewah reflect an attention to detail at every level.

The Center offers a staff of 150 people serving 70 private rooms, 23 semi-private rooms and four private suites. The amenities include a 4,200-square-foot therapy gym, several courtyards, a private dining room and a library. With a putting green, an ice cream parlor, a spa and a hair salon, the charm factor is exceptionally high. But the thing that has impressed patients like Linda is the unusual level of care.

“Ninety percent of our patients leave the facility functioning at a higher level than they did before their procedures,” says Development Director Ginger Crawford. Formerly with Life Care of Hixson, Crawford says each facility is slightly different, but none in the area include the extensive array of options as the one in Ooltewah does. “This facility will draw from the East Brainerd, Harrison, McDonald, Collegedale and Cleveland communities,” adds Crawford.

Dr. Joy Boggers and medical assistants greet patients at the Physician’s suite. Dr. Boggers is an avid birder and has two daughters attending university.

“The therapy is wonderful and they have the very latest equipment,” says Skyles. New machines test balance, compare data—dating and tracking the progress of each patient. Patients may use strength building equipment and a cushioned indoor walking track.

“I don’t think this is typical, but the physical therapist even came with me on my follow-up visit to my surgeon,” says Skyles. Physical Therapist, James Gose, is one of a “shared” staff that rotates among other Life Care Centers in the area, however, all are employed directly and none are contracted. Gose wanted to make sure he was providing the appropriate therapy to the individual, so he accompanied Skyles when she saw Dr. Martin Reddish, days after he performed the surgery.

There is also a staffed physician’s suite on site, headed by Dr. Joy Boggers, who oversees the medications and the progress patients are making in their therapies. “The doctor came in every day, to monitor the meds I was on,” adds Skyles. “I appreciated that. Sometimes an adjustment in medication can improve your sleep.”

The large therapy room includes state-of-the-art equipment and a walking course.

Dr. Boggers comes to Life Care from California with a depth of experience in critical care. “I provide continuity from hospital to rehabilitation,” says Boggers. “This offers a level of comfort and it’s part of Life Care’s quality assurance initiative.” She sees patients, beginning around 9:30 am while the afternoons are usually reserved for admissions.

Soon, The Bridge at Ooltewah will be finished, next door to the rehabilitation center on Snow Hill Road. The three-story, 95,000-square-foot assisted living facility will have 100 units. There is another Bridge facility in Hixson and two more in Nashville. Patients, who may not be able to return home, have the option to reside at the Bridge, but for most, a re-entry into the comfort of their own home is the reality.

Physical Therapist, James Gose, explains the information produced by the balance machine, as a patient works with arm weights in the background.

Patients like Linda Skyles also receive occupational therapy before they leave the Center. The Therapy room is equipped with a kitchen and laundry facility where the patient can prepare a simple meal and do a load of laundry, just to make sure they are ready to return to their homes. When the patient returns home, there is an assessment of the home environment and recommendations provided for making the home safer. This is usually accomplished simply, by helping the patient remove throw rugs and by reassigning unstable tables or chairs that could cause falls.

Having a safe transition after surgery or getting the care needed after an illness, can enhance the quality of life for senior adults. Linda Skyles says, “They just seemed to go above and beyond.”

Visit lifecarecenterofooltewah.com for more information.

Photography courtesy of Life Care of Ooltewah

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Debbie is the retired Editor of Chattanooga Magazine, and ongoing contributor.

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