Providing Culturally Competent Acute Care Physical Therapy for a Complex Medical Patient of Amish Heritage

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:

Health care providers, including physical therapists, should identify and incorporate sociocultural, educational, and environmental factors in their clinical decisions for patients of various cultural backgrounds—specifically Amish heritage as illustrated in this case report. The purpose of this case report is to describe how cultural beliefs affected acute care physical therapy (PT) and discharge planning for an older adult of Amish heritage.

Case Description:

The patient was a 65-year-old woman of Amish heritage 2 days post thoracic aortic aneurysm dissection surgery with an unexpected subsequent stroke. Due to their Amish beliefs, the patient and the family declined the physical therapist's initial postacute care discharge recommendation to an off-site skilled nursing facility. Significant discussion with multiple family members throughout the entire therapy process emphasized continued skilled services in accord with Amish cultural beliefs to promote safe reintegration into the Amish community. PT interventions primarily focused on culturally sensitive patient and family education and functional mobility to encourage safe patient resumption of activities of daily living and role in society.

Outcomes:

By the end of 2 weeks of PT (1 initial examination and 8 intervention sessions), the patient demonstrated improvements in all aspects of functional mobility and total Functional Independence Measure scores (21/126 to 86/126). On postoperative day 14, the patient transitioned to an on-site inpatient rehabilitation facility. After completing only 4 days in the inpatient rehabilitation facility, the family firmly advocated that the patient be discharged home with assistance from the family and Amish community.

Discussion:

Physical therapists may be unfamiliar with patients of Amish heritage due to the infrequency of PT services used by these individuals. This case report demonstrates a physical therapist's sensitivity to and acceptance of the Amish cultural beliefs, which ensured appropriate clinical decisions and positive patient- and family-centered outcomes. Engaging the patient's family in dialogue about realistic discharge options early in the acute care stay allowed the family time to understand the complexity of the patient's diagnoses and challenges of the health care environment as well as align decisions with their cultural beliefs.

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