Practice Makes Perfect: Education Gives Patients Confidence

Patients enjoy preparing a heart-healthy meal in the therapy gym kitchen at HealthSouth Nittany Valley.  (Provided photo)

Patients enjoy preparing a heart-healthy meal in the therapy gym kitchen at HealthSouth Nittany Valley. (Provided photo)

PLEASANT GAP – At HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap, education is an essential part of rehabilitation. When a patient is admitted for rehab after an illness, injury or surgery and that patient has a heart failure diagnosis, they also get the benefit of the Heart Failure Program.

The program includes classes taught by a nurse, a registered dietitian, a psychologist and a pharmacist. The classes focus on sodium intake, medications, coping with heart failure, and the importance of daily weight monitoring. The interdisciplinary team also teaches patients about foods to avoid, the name of their water pill, how to weigh themselves, and symptoms to share with their health care providers.  Patients’ family members are encouraged to attend.

Taking patient education one step further, HealthSouth’s Occupational Therapy Department started the “Heart Failure Group” – therapists committed to helping patients with heart failure function better at home and in the community.

According to Occupational Therapist Heather Carpenter, “In this group, heart failure patients practice tasks such as weighing themselves, preparing and making a healthy meal, and managing the symptoms of heart failure.  That practice helps patients feel more confident about going home and carrying out a heart-healthy regimen.”

Patients also learn exercise tips, and skills such as how to safely transfer to the scale, and navigate in the kitchen.

Heart failure patients can practice what they learn about nutrition in HealthSouth’s occupational therapy kitchen.   The therapy staff teamed up with HealthSouth Registered Dietitian Caryll DeFrate to plan heart-healthy meals that the patients prepare.

“They cook healthy meals like meatless chili and herb crusted cod,” says DeFrate.  “We also answer questions that arise about heart-healthy eating.”  Patients learn how to modify recipes to reduce sodium, and make good choices when dining out.  DeFrate adds, “We want them to succeed when they get home, and if they practice while they are here, they will be more confident at the time of discharge.”

HealthSouth’s Heart Failure Rehabilitation Program has earned the Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care Certification, the gold seal of approval in health care.  HealthSouth’s Heart Failure Support Group is open to the public, serving patients, family members, and those caring for someone with a heart failure diagnosis.

Meetings are held at HealthSouth on the fourth Monday of the month at 4 p.m.   Contact Traci Curtorillo, CRRN®, Nurse Manager, at 800-842-6026 or visit

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