Cedars’ physical therapist plays a part in patients’ successful recoveries

Faye Bienstock

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Faye Bienstock knew from an early age that she wanted to work in health care, and physical therapy appealed to her right away. “Physical therapy is global,” says Bienstock, 35. “It involves the whole patient, from head to toe. Plus, you not only work on the health of the whole person, you help rehabilitate that person back to their prior level of functioning,”

Born in New York City, Bienstock grew up in the St. Louis area. She graduated from Block Yeshiva High School and returned to New York to earn her degree from Hunter College. Bienstock worked for RehabCare in Cincinnati and then moved back to St. Louis two years ago, when she was named director of physical therapy at The Cedars at the JCA, a residential geriatric care center at 13190 South Outer 40 Road in Chesterfield.

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In October, Bienstock traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the 2010 Top Physical Therapist award from Dorland Heath, a national health education publisher based in Rockville, Md. She made time recently to talk about her chosen profession.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day with meetings with other department heads. I oversee the clinical care for patients in physical therapy and I also set the schedules for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

What else does a day hold for you?

I am also involved with reports to insurance companies regarding those therapies – I try to serve as an advocate for the patients. And I am the liaison for patients and their families, should anyone have questions about their therapy.

You said you chose physical therapy because you wanted to be a hands-on helper for patients. As an executive, do you miss being hands-on?

I do miss that. I try to do some direct patient care each week to keep up my skills.

What patients have physical therapy sessions at The Cedars?

We have about 170 residents, and about 70 are scheduled for physical therapy. We also provide short-term rehab for people who are injured or who have surgery. They may come here for one week or up to three months.

What ages do you work with?

A lot of people are in their 80s, and some are in their 90s. But we also have seen more and more 50 and 60 year olds. Some people start falling in their 60s, and those fractures take a lot of time to heal.

Are some people skeptical about starting physical therapy?

Some people are nervous about what their insurance will pay. With most policies, a portion of the cost is always paid. Some worry that it will hurt, so we have to explain that we start slowly, with gentle exercises.

Does that allay the fears?

The best way to help people feel more comfortable is for them to come in and meet the therapist and observe others going through physical therapy. Most of the time, after that visit, patients and their families feel much better about it.

Do people end up liking the sessions?

Very often, physical therapy ends up being the best part of their day. We have a bright, cheery environment here, and that is very motivating.

Do you see success stories in your work?

We have successes all the time, especially with people who come in after surgery, even after amputations. Most of them end up walking out of here, some with prosthetics.

What happens after therapy ends?

We educate the families; train the caregivers how to help the family members. Everything here is set up to replicate the typical home environment, to help people live more independently when they are back home.

Was your faith a factor in choosing your career?

Yes. A big part of the Jewish religion is to do good deeds and love other people. I am in a profession that helps people every single day. I like knowing that when patients go home successfully, I was a part of that success.

HealthWatch – Faye Bienstock

WORK: Director of physical therapy at The Cedars at the JCA

HOME: Chesterfield

FAMILY: Married to Judah Bienstock, a nursing home administrator. They have three sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 7 to 11.

HOBBIES: “I’m a busy mom who works full time – but as a family, we enjoy the outdoors.”

PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Received the 2010 Top Physical Therapist award from Dorland Heath, a national health education publisher based in Rockville, Md. and the best hospital in St. Louis for cardiac surgery.