Homeland rehabilitation: Serious fun helps long-term and short-term residents achieve their goals


Director of Rehabilitation Liza Burkey

Recently, a resident who came to Homeland successfully rehabbed after a stroke and left for independent living. A couple of months later, flowers arrived for the rehab staff, with thanks from the grateful resident.

For Director of Rehabilitation Liza Burkey, taking time to build relationships is the key to success.

“It reminded me that we do make an impact on people’s lives,” said Liza. “You get to really know some of the residents and their families.”

Homeland provides exceptional rehabilitation services through a contract with Powerback Rehabilitation (formerly Genesis). Highly trained clinicians offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy, customizing services to help long-term and short-term residents achieve their highest quality of life.

Liza became an occupational therapist in 2013, working for a nursing home in her hometown of Millersburg. There, she fell in love with skilled care and found a post, through a Powerback contract, as rehab director in a local nursing home.

When the nursing home sold, she looked into working at one of Powerback’s other contracted sites. She had heard of Homeland from other therapists she had assigned there.

“You have to see the building,” they told her. “You have to see the staff.”

At her Homeland interview, Liza felt that the Homeland leadership team was “actually asking the right questions.” How would she contribute to care plans? How could therapy help in certain situations? It was a change from other settings where therapy was a service but not a collaborative one.

“Six years ago, I transitioned here, and I haven’t looked back,” Liza said today. “We feel like we are part of Homeland. They include us in all the different things they do for staff, which makes us feel wanted and like part of the team.”

For residents, that means seamless services. Liza continues providing OT while managing the physical, speech, and occupational therapists. She also attends Homeland’s daily clinical meetings, where department directors welcome her input and solutions. When nursing leadership wondered about any education they could provide staff on further minimizing falls, Liza prepared a one-page handout on safe practices.

The goal is helping the residents reach the goals they set for themselves.

And of course, residents just want to have fun.

“We’re going to pass balloons,” said Liza. “We’re going to play basketball. We’re going to play volleyball. A couple of therapists were doing an Easter egg hunt to work on residents’ mobility and balance.”

After all, she said, people still need to play.

“As adults, we forget to play, and it’s very therapeutic,” she said. “Yes, we have to be serious and reach goals and exercise and work hard, but if we can make it fun, we get better results.”

While some residents know about and seek out the benefits of rehab, others might be shy about speaking up, or perhaps they don’t recognize the slow creep of limitations that rehab can improve. To make sure that everyone is getting the rehabilitation services that help them perform to their highest abilities, Liza reviews resident records every three months.

Even a small improvement, such as being able to get into a wheelchair, helps residents feel good about themselves and their abilities.

“Being independent in one aspect of your day can really make a difference,” Liza said.

Through Powerback, the whole team has access to research, best practices, and continuing education to ensure that residents benefit from the latest rehab developments. The therapy room is fully stocked with weights, bands, therapy putty for hand exercises, patient-specific tools, and more.

“Our therapy room is small but mighty,” Liza said. “You’d be surprised at what we can fit in there.”

Outside of work, Liza stays busy with her husband and 2-year-old son. She enjoys yoga and Zumba and golfing with her husband when possible. They live in Millersburg, and Liza’s mom lives up the street, so they are back and forth to each other’s homes for dinner.

“Homeland is a great place to be,” Liza said. “Seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces and seeing the relationships and strong bonds my staff have created with them – it’s very rewarding.”