On March 20, Boomerang Therapy Works closed its downtown Vancouver location for in-person appointments and switched to telehealth visits, citing safety concerns due to COVID-19.
But not long after that virtual shift happened, some patients began to see their health deteriorate. Boomerang co-owner JJ Flentke said it was particularly challenging for those with Parkinson’s disease or those recovering from strokes.
Boomerang offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, group exercise and guided exercise programs for baby boomers, seniors and people with neuromuscular disorders.
That’s why Boomerang decided to reopen in May, with plenty of precautions and new rules in place.
“We had to open back up. Our patients were declining rapidly,” Flentke said. “You could see people falling apart.”
As much as virtual appointments can help provide a stopgap, Flentke said the challenges of providing care through technology were at times overwhelming to staff and patients. Initially, there were some problems getting insurance companies to OK telehealth, and the confusion just caused more troubles.
“The stress was terrible,” Flentke said. “Our people weren’t doing well, and we weren’t able to help them right away.”
Now that Boomerang is back open, Flentke said, patients and staff are wearing masks during appointments, sanitizing equipment, screening for symptoms and limiting the amount of staff and patients in the building at one time.
Some patients are still using telehealth, which is running smoother now, while others have needed and wanted to return to in-person visits.
Nancy Warren, 71, has been going to Boomerang for two years, after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Warren, a Vancouver resident, likes the camaraderie at Boomerang and said it’s a “fun and encouraging” place to receive care.
Warren’s balance has improved since she joined Boomerang, and Warren has not seen regressions in her health. She was worried about that happening when in-person visits temporarily stopped. Warren is pleased with the safety precautions now in place.
“It’s the one thing that prevents my Parkinson’s from progressing,” Warren said of physical therapy.
Scott Hougan, a 58-year-old Ridgefield resident, is recovering from a stroke he had last year. Hougan first went to Boomerang not long before they had to close because of the pandemic. He said he normally got excited to visit his therapist, and was disappointed when in-person visits ended.
The stroke damaged the left side of his body, and he’s learning to walk again. Hougan, who mainly uses a wheelchair now,wants to regain some of his independence.
Recently he’s been able to take a few steps.
“It’s a small start, but it feels like a big start to me,” Hougan said.