By R.J. DeLuke
The Wesley Community in the north end of Saratoga Springs is known for its facilities that serve the needs of the elderly.
On a 36-acre plot, Wesley provides independent and enriched living for seniors, subsidized independent senior housing, adult day services, short-term rehabilitation and long-term care.
One aspect that seems to cruise under the radar is its outpatient therapy department, which treats patients of all ages and with all manner of health concerns.
While the department is part of the Wesley Community, it treats patients from all over the region, including Glens Falls and Queensbury. And its patients are of all ages, from infants to senior citizens. Patients need not have any affiliation at all with Wesley.
“I’ll get a patient from a few blocks away who will say, ‘I never knew you were here,'” said Tara VanBuren, director of the department for about the last decade. She started working there as a therapist some 25 years ago. “We’re a well kept secret.”
The nonprofit group treats people with developmental disabilities, orthopedic problems, work-related injuries, stroke victims, multiple sclerosis, varieties of traumas and more. For children, the pediatric program offers comprehensive occupational, physical and speech therapy evaluations and treatment for children from birth to adolescence, with developmental, neurological, and orthopedic needs.
“We all have many years of experience,” she said of her staff, “and we do a lot of one-on-one work with patients. That’s where we differ from a lot of other clinics.”
The department has two occupational therapists, two speech therapists, four physical therapists and two per-diem therapists who are able to fill in when needed.
Programs are individualized for each patent, she said. The department also has a therapy water pool, nine feet deep and kept at a temperature of 92 degrees, that is popular with patients. At times it is used for group therapy, with six or seven patients in the pool at once, along with a therapist. It is also used for aqua aerobics.
Through the aquatic programs, people take an active role in improving physical strength, joint mobility, balance, coordination and endurance.
There is a nursing home arm on the Wesley campus, but it has its own therapy department. Van Buren and staff do not treat the residents.
But also on the campus are the Embry Apartments, where the residents are living independently. When necessary, those residents go to the outpatient department for treatment, said VanBuren.
Her department works with Saratoga orthopedics and Albany orthopedics, among others, and gets referrals from doctors across the region.
“For the most part, the doctors know us,” VanBuren said. The department also sends out brochures to physicians and health care agencies to make itself known. She said there are also many referrals from physical therapy clinics, because many of those don’t offer occupational therapy.
The Wesley department is also known for its custom splints — a brace or support that is molded specifically to an individual body part. Doctors know that about Wesley and often send patients there to best serve a particular need.
Sometimes the elderly are better served at Wesley, said VanBuren, because elsewhere “they can sometimes be moved from machine to machine” for treatment that is less personal.
“We’re more low key, very hands on. A slower pace works for some people,” she said. “I’m thrilled with what we provide. We provide very good quality care” and patient feedback is extremely positive. “We get them their best functional, painless outcome.”
To access the services, people can contact the department at 691-1451. A billing clerk will get them registered, deal with insurance issues (they accept just about all insurances) and get them scheduled.
Said VanBuren, “I’m really proud of this department.”
The Wesley Community website is www.thewesleycommunity.org.