Tribune Print Share Text

Getting fit

The road to better health starts with the right team

Created date

October 26th, 2010

When Don Allred moved to Highland Springs in 2006, he says he wasn t in the best shape. The retired State Farm insurance agent had just lost his wife and was feeling run down. His weight barely tipped the scales at 116 pounds. Now, four years later, Allred works out three times a week in the community s fitness center with a personal trainer and has added 40 pounds of lean muscle tissue. There s no fat, I can tell you that, he says. I really enjoy working out, and I feel better after I ve done it. The exercise program that Sara [Bartolone, Highland Springs rehabilitation wellness technician] designed helps me hold my own. Having a plan motivates me to work harder than I would if I was just going to the fitness center by myself. Allred s success story is not uncommon at Highland Springs, where the team approach to health and wellness encompasses the whole person.

The village doctor

We have the benefit of a team that includes not just doctors and nurses, but our wellness program with physical and occupational therapists and a fitness specialist right here on site, says Mary Norman, M.D., medical director at Highland Springs. We also have activity coordinators and social workers who are really in tune with the people who live here. Norman, who was recently voted one of 2010 s Best Doctors in Dallas in geriatrics by D magazine, appreciates the advantage of working in the same place where her patients live. There s nothing better than being the village doctor, she says. I get to see people as they re interacting with other residents, as they re eating, as they re playing. It s rare in medicine that you really have the time to understand the whole person. Just the benefit of being able to tell someone You know, you just don t look quite the same as you usually do. Can you come in and see me tomorrow? is wonderful. In a normal practice, when someone drives in from 30 minutes away, that s not an option.

Leading the way

The concept of specialized, holistic care for older adults is gaining momentum across the country, particularly as the population ages. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, one in five U.S. residents will be 65 or older by 2030. Medical centers are taking note. The recently opened University of Texas Center for Healthy Aging in Houston uses a coordinated approach similar to Erickson Living s, incorporating therapists and social workers into a patient s team of caregivers. Erickson Livingis a leader in the field in terms of holistic medicine and wellness, says Norman. It doesn t surprise me that other medical providers are trying the same approach.

An ounce of prevention

Part of maintaining optimal health includes nipping potential problems in the proverbial bud. With same-day or next-day appointments, Highland Springs community members don t have to wait to see a doctor. And they don t have to hop in the car when they re not feeling well. I ve had patients walk down to the medical center on a Friday afternoon because it s so convenient to pop in, says Norman. Instead of trying to stick it out through the weekend, I get them the medicine they need so they re on their way to feeling better.

Lifestyle factors

Norman also addresses the bigger lifestyle factors that affect a patient s well-being. I ask residents, What are your fitness goals? Together we come up with a plan, and then we get other support staff on board to help them accomplish their goals, she says. We have the benefit of more frequent follow-up here than in a traditional practice. In Allred s case, the community s support was invaluable in getting him back into top form. I get stronger every day, he says.