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HSHS St. Elizabeth’s offers COVID-19 Wellness Program

HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is offering a COVID-19 Wellness Program to assist those isolated at home.

Through telehealth appointments, the program offers improved quality of life through light physical exercises and positioning and breathing exercises that are safe and result in improvements in physical function, activity level and fatigue. It is available for both positive COVID-19 patients recovering at home, as well as other patients who need to keep active to stay healthy.

“We wanted to anticipate the needs of the community while they are sheltering at home, so we expanded our therapy service to start offering telehealth video visits,” said Tom Dibadj, director of Therapy Services at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. “The program allows us to assess patients’ needs while they are at home, for physical, occupational and speech therapies.”

Just like traditional therapy visits, a patient is referred to outpatient therapy by their physician and an initial appointment is set. Therapist discuss each patients’ specific care needs with them, review their medical history and do a visual assessment, via video tools, to create a personalized care plan to move forward.

“When we are unable to have in-person office visits during this health crisis, using video has been very effective so we can continue to provide the necessary care for our patients. It allows us to demonstrate what we are wanting the patient to do, and they can demonstrate it back so we can watch and give feedback,” said Stacie Dichsen, PT, DPT, with St. Elizabeth’s Outpatient Therapy. “We also use an online exercise software that provides patients with specific exercise examples that they can use as a resource in between appointments.”

A person does not have to have symptoms or be positive for COVID-19 to utilize this program.

“We know inactivity affects the general health of everyone, especially in our older population. We need people to stay moving in their home and have specific exercises for their areas of weakness, so they remain independent and safe,” Dichsen said.

When people are in bed recovering for even a week or less, or are really just less active, they lose muscle strength. This can affect balance and put them at a higher risk from a fall, and it could make them unable to get in and out of bed easily or safely moving around their home.

Therapists stress the general positive effects of exercise which include managing blood sugar levels, managing response stress and anxiety, and improving sleep and general mood. Having a better health baseline adds to recovery if someone does get sick.

Dichsen noted, “For positive COVID-19 patients recovering at home or for those with mild symptoms who are self-isolating, we are most concerned with their breathing function.”

COVID affects the respiratory system. Therapists make sure the muscles used when breathing are strong and flexible to get an effective deep breath allowing improved oxygenation of the lungs. If muscles look tight, the therapists can provide specific exercises to improve breath capacity.

A physician’s referral is required for St. Elizabeth’s COVID-19 Wellness Program and all telehealth appointments and information is performed through the hospital’s secure patient portal, MyChart.

For more information on this program, call St. Elizabeth’s Outpatient Therapy at (618) 624-3668.

PHOTO: Stacie Dichsen

Editor’s note: This story is from our May print edition. The entire edition can be found under the Current Edition link at


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