Most rehab centers have a section that resembles a home so that patients can practice navigating thresholds, unlocking doors, doing laundry and other routine chores. 

LifeStream at Youngtown has taken that concept a step further by turning a house into a short-term rehab center. The 7,000-square-foot residential space is dedicated to short-term rehab, renovated courtesy of three grants: $524,000 from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, $105,000 from the BHHS Legacy Foundation and $30,000 from a private donor. It has 10 private beds and baths, with a kitchen, family room and hearth. 

COO Donna Taylor conceived the idea when she looked at potential uses for the former assisted living space. 

“We were just dreaming about what it would look like to convert it to a short-term rehab home and before long the idea caught on — we had a specific vision of how it should look and feel,” Taylor says. “We met with reps from the Piper Foundation and explained our vision of how it would be a home where patients could practice their daily living routines and they understood.” 

Taylor and the management team met with clinicians  pointedly to discuss its feasibility. 

“The big question from them was, ‘Where do we put all the equipment and materials we need?’” Taylor says. “But the majority of rehab happens within the home — a lot of exercises revolve around the bed. We are not using a lot of big equipment you see in gyms. We considered the interior dimensions and walking surfaces so there were transitions from tile to carpet as well as thresholds to step over.” 

Moreover, the backyard patio has multiple surfaces for patients to navigate, including elevated steps, grass, sidewalk, rocks and gravel.

The kinetic therapies are provided through the Jintronix virtual games, a program that engages users in therapeutic exercises through video animations of sports such as soccer and skiing. Each regimen is customized to every patient’s specific needs. 

Nina Louis, executive director of healthcare services for LifeStream, says despite initial questions from her staff about the physical dimensions of the rehab home, they have now totally bought into the concept.

 “A lot of us get into the industry to make a difference and that means seeking different means for that,” she says.

In essence, Louis says, LifeStream has eliminated the hospital-based rehab model while also going beyond “home-like” and “neighborhoods” to “real-life home therapy.”

 Taylor adds that the environment is designed to promote convivium, a social intimacy that encourages physical healing.

 “We want this experience,” she says, “to be like staying with a good friend who has made you feel like a valued guest in their home.”