Restorative Therapy Results: Returning Patients to the Best of Their Abilities


When it comes to restorative therapy in skilled nursing and rehabilitation, Karl Henderson says the key ingredients are patience and repetition. He’s referring to his patients’ actions, but anyone who works with Karl knows that it is his personal approach to assisting residents that helps them succeed.

Karl is known by colleagues and patients alike for being thoughtful, kind and caring. He assists more than 10 patients each day in the restorative therapy program at SKLD Plymouth, where he helps residents maintain and improve their progress post physical therapy. He’s been working as a CNA in skilled nursing for nearly 15 years, and patients often come to him feeling defeated by injury or illness. But Karl knows this is not the end for them. He’s seen enough patients achieve monumental improvements under his care, that he is confident he can help each one.

“We have to reassure them that this is a stumbling block. I never tell anybody you can run a marathon, but you can always be better,” says Karl.

With each new patient, Karl finds his or her trajectory of improvement an inspiring new challenge. He begins working with residents immediately after they complete physical therapy. At that stage, they are concerned about maintaining the gains they achieved with PT. Karl steps in to support and measure their follow up to PT, so that they continue to improve. “Our goal is for them to go home. I have residents who at the start couldn’t walk, and I go in and get them to walk with walkers. I see people with failure to thrive hooked up to tubes for feedings, and then I see them learn to feed themselves. That is what it’s about.”

Karl focuses on empowering his patients with the confidence and will to regain independence. By repeatedly practicing the same skills, Karl enables patients to help themselves.

“I help them gain confidence that they can do this. We want to see them return to the best level of their abilities.”

Karl attributes his ability to relate well to all kinds of people to his six years spent in the Marines. By the time he was 21, he had traveled around the world twice and worked with people from all different backgrounds.

As a male CNA and as a former Marine, Karl says he is able to form a special rapport with many of the male residents. He meets a lot of retired military personnel in his line of work. “Once you’ve been in military, you have camaraderie and brotherhood no matter what branch you’re in.” Recently, Karl began working with a fellow former Marine, who was uncertain about his ability to improve. “Because I struck a chord with him, he is really trying.”

One of Karl’s greatest challenges as a restorative therapy CNA is in fact one of his greatest strengths. He says that dealing with families of residents can mean that he spends a lot of time reassuring relatives that their loved one is receiving proper care. Karl can respond to each family that he does everything he can to treat them as if they’re his own mother or father. It’s simple he says:

“Treat people the way you want to be treated because one day it may be you that needs help.”