Patient Richard Hermstad with Tamara Burt, occupational therapist

Richard Hermstad enjoys staying busy.


A licensed minister, Hermstad offers counsel to families in crisis and loves to provide the gift of music through his skilled piano playing.


Unfortunately, all of that came to a halt on Hermstad’s 75th birthday when he suffered from a stroke and a traumatic brain injury while playing racquetball.


Hermstad began therapy at Cottesmore of Life Care in Gig Harbor, Washington, on May 1, 2016, with the goal of returning home to live with his wife.


When he first arrived, Hermstad struggled to walk and needed help with activities of daily living, such as getting dressed and bathing. He was also having trouble speaking, swallowing and eating solid foods.


Therapists at the facility began working with Hermstad seven days a week to help him regain his independence.


Physical and occupational therapists worked with Hermstad to build his strength and balance using therapy modalities such as LiteGait®, a partial-weight-bearing balance device, electric stimulation and the Omnicycle™, an exercise bike designed to provide as little or as much pedaling assistance as needed.


Meanwhile, the speech therapy team helped Hermstad gain more control of his facial muscles and improve his speech and swallowing. Therapists used VitalStim® therapy to retrain his swallowing muscles. As he progressed, he started to enjoy solid foods again.


“Richard was always eager to participate in therapy, and he was able to meet and beat all of his goals,” said Tamara Burt, occupational therapist. “During his time here, he also mentored and encouraged other patients.”


Hermstad went home on July 6. After completing therapy, he was able to walk with the assistance of a walker and play the piano again. He could also get dressed on his own, speak with clarity and plans on returning to counseling in the near future.


“The staff helped me see my way back to real life and the larger world,” said Hermstad. “The therapists led, supported and encouraged me to get back to my living functions.”