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Helen Porter unveils rehab, ARCH upgrades

MIDDLEBURY — Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing residents and patients are enjoying two much-anticipated gifts this week: newly renovated facilities, and a return to more placid conditions after five months of hammering, sawing and drilling.
Bread Loaf Corp. workers on Thursday, Sept. 20, were putting the finishing touches on a major project at the Middlebury institution that provides short-term rehabilitation and long-term health and memory care.
The work at Helen Porter has produced:
•  Two specially designed suites for terminally ill patients, thanks to support from a non-profit organization called Addison Respite Care Home (ARCH). The ARCH amenities place terminally ill patients close to the services they need and provide a home-like environment in which to live their final days in dignity.
Each suite is around 500 square feet in size and includes a patient bed, a pullout bed for overnight guests, a restroom equipped to serve the disabled, a visiting area, and a kitchenette with microwave.
Both suites have natural light and a view into the Helen Porter courtyard.
“To me, it’s just like a studio apartment,” Helen Porter Administrator Mary Jane Nottonson said during a tour of one of the ARCH suites. “I don’t know of any other places like it in Vermont. We believe it’s a very special resource for our community.”
Porter Medical Center campus now hosts three ARCH suites and one ARCH room.
•  Seven new private rooms for patients. These are the first private rooms ever at Helen Porter. Five of those rooms are designated for patients rehabbing following medical procedures.
•  Better flow to the Helen Porter gym, which now has more storage space.
•  Increased privacy for patients undergoing physical therapy. These designated rooms are now enclosed by walls, as opposed to partitions.
•  Improved rehab facilities and related equipment, including a complete kitchen for patients to re-learn simple cooking skills and household chores. The kitchen even features windows, which patients can raise and lower as practice for when they return to their own homes. There’s also a set of stairs, a walking station with rail supports, and plastic balls of all sizes to practice dexterity and pliability exercises.
“We’re trying to simulate the home environment as much as possible,” said Doreen Kadric, director of rehabilitation services at Helen Porter.
“In particular, the new rehab therapy space will really allow us to enhance the physical, occupational and speech therapy we’re providing to our folks,” Nottonson added.
•  Three “touchdown” stations that are recessed into the walls of the rehab wing. Around the size of a closet, each station has a sink for hand washing and a computer to discreetly type in patient information. Nottonson noted those computers used to be mounted on the hallway wall, thus contributing to occasional bottlenecks in the walking aisles.
•  A living room area for rehabbing patients, equipped with seating and basic kitchen services.
She beamed as she showcased highlights of the project, which involved a combined total of 11,300 square feet at Helen Porter, a single-story building erected 25 years ago to serve as the county’s nursing home. The center has in recent years taken on the added role of a rehab center, a more lucrative endeavor offering recently discharged hospital patients the physical, speech and/or occupational therapies they need before they can return home for independent living.
The project cost around $900,000, with two-thirds of that sum related to the rehabilitation center upgrades, according to Porter spokesman Ron Hallman. The Addison County community donated $400,000 to the cause, including $150,000 raised by the Porter Medical Center Auxiliary. A separate fund drive that included ARCH supporters netted around $250,000, according to Hallman. The rest was financed by Porter.
The project demonstrates Porter Medical Center’s commitment to Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing and its role in cradle-to-grave services at the county’s health care campus, Hallman noted.
“The strategic importance of this ties into our population health strategy,” he said. “It recognizes the importance of Helen Porter in the continuum of care, all the way from the birthing center, through the hospital, our outpatient practices, nursing home, and end-of-life care.
“You don’t have a continuum if you don’t have the end,” Hallman added. “We need to make sure Helen Porter is strong and has all the services the community needs.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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