As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a doctor so I could help people in need.
That impelling drive has been with me all my life and led me to the profession of physical therapy where I found my passion in orthopedic physical therapy.
At the pinnacle of my physical therapy career, I felt there was more that I should be able to do to help my patients, so I entered chiropractic school to learn more skills to better serve my patient’s needs.
Even though chiropractic and the medical profession have a long term dislike for each other, I found the combination of these two professions to be very beneficial to my patients.
It was a win for both me and my patients.
Along the way, I met a very cute occupational therapist with the same mindset.
In her quest to better help her patients, she became licensed in physical therapy as well as her occupational therapy license.
After considerable begging, I was able to persuade her to become my wife and together we have raised two wonderful children, neither of whom wanted anything to do with the healthcare industry. Just too much inside information about the difficulties and time requirements of owning a large physical therapy orthopedic clinic (and I’m sure the videos I took in cadaver lab to review at home while I was in chiropractic school for almost four years did something to turn them off the medical profession – “gross”, they used to say when they would accidentally see me reviewing those tapes).
So the choice of becoming a physical therapist not only rewarded me financially for over the past four decades, it also provided me with the family I love.
In 1980, a couple of years after meeting my wife Jacqueline when we were both heads of departments in physical therapy and occupational therapy in an acute community hospital, I decided to open my own outpatient physical therapy office. My interest had become focused on orthopedic rehabilitation and my concentration was on neck and back pain, trying to resolve patient’s complaints without going to surgery.
In fact, I used to jokingly say “I run a chicken clinic, all I ever see are backs and necks”.
Jacqueline followed suit and opened her private practice in my new office the first year Buena Physical Therapy was operational. Later she added her additional expertise in physical therapy and became licensed in physical therapy also.
Jacqueline joining my office became the luckiest day of my life. She finally consented to “date me” because we were no longer two employees of a hospital, we were independent private practitioners.
Together we operated Buena Physical Therapy Services, Inc. for 40 years, growing into a 5,000-foot facility with as many as 20 employees.
We also raised our family during this time.
“We” may be an overstatement since most of that responsibility fell on Jacqueline. And she did a fantastic job! Both kids are independent, kind, considerate, generous, conservative with money, and earned college degrees.
In my family of four, we have six college degrees.
After more than 40 years in our own office, and having become empty-nesters, we decided to retire.
That lasted for about 3 weeks!
We learned that retiring a person accustomed to working 10 hour days for 5 to 6 days a week, then just stopping work, is a huge culture shock. So about 3 weeks into retirement, Jacqueline received a phone call from a home health care agency wanting to know if we would be interested in contracting with them to see their orthopedic patients in our county.
Jacqueline immediately responded with a resounding “YES”!
That has turned out to be an excellent decision. And a couple of other agencies started referring patients as well.
Since about 2010 we have been working full time on seeing homebound total knee and total hip replacement patients along with some post-surgical spinal fusions.
The really good news is these home health care agencies are receiving referrals from the top doctors in the entire United States, all of them located in Los Angeles and associated with facilities like USC and Keck.
It has been a real eye-opener to see the difference in results after a total knee or hip replacement by surgeons that are performing multiple surgeries daily as compared to the results from surgeons doing 4 or 5 surgeries a week.
So between Jacqueline and myself, we have over 90 years of experience in rehabilitation and over 150 years of life experiences.
And that experience encompasses seeing the patients bedside immediately after surgery, while they are still in the hospital, all the way through to complete rehabilitation in an outpatient physical therapy office.
In addition to the 90 combined years of professional experience, we have also become senior citizens and have begun to experience the physical decline as well as the aches and pains of just getting older.
Along the way, we have personally experienced some of the medical issues that come with aging as well.
In December of 2017, we lost our home to the California Thomas Fire. We intend to re-building using all the tricks we have learned from treating patients in their own home homes.
We have designed our new home incorporating many solutions to problems we see our homebound patients have in their own homes after surgery.
We have done everything we can think of over the years to Age In Place independently in our own home until death. That includes all the lifestyle adaptations we have made over the years to stay functionally independent until the end.
There is nothing like seeing patients, younger than ourselves, that through ignorance, find themselves in the situation of no longer being able to live independently, to motivate a person to make changes in their lifestyle.
The “choice” of where and how people live out their final days are dictated by functional limitations that could have been delayed or eliminated if they had only known what Jacqueline and I now know.
Our goal with Age In Place School is to provide information to everyone interested in living as long as possible and living that life independently.
Buena Physical Therapy’s mantra has always been “Paying It Forward”.
We did that through being an educational facility accepting students for internships, writing continuing education materials for the American Physical Therapy Association, teaching X-ray to physical therapy students at USC, and becoming a qualified medical examiner in workers comp to advocate for my patients in workers comp court.
Jacqueline and I have come to the realization that eventually our “hard drives” are going to crash, and all this information we have gathered over the years will no longer be available to anyone.
In the spirit of Paying It Forward, we decided to launch this website AgeInPlaceSchool.com in order to record all our experience on the most commonly asked questions and issues to aging in place successfully, including the detailed steps of rehabilitation of the most common medical conditions we see that can potentially end a person’s ability to maintain their independence.
I have the additional pride, having been raised in a small mid-western town, to bring this expertise to individuals living in areas of the country that may not even have access to physical therapy.
Transcending Aging Independently
Dr. Robert Donaldson, D.C, P.T.