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Joann’s Story: Regaining Balance with Home Care

Contributor Octavia Moniz, PT, MBA
5 minute read

After a fall left Joann Byrne with six staples in her head, she started having trouble with her balance. Multiple visits to the ER didn’t solve the problem. She had been treated for epilepsy for almost 30 years, where electrical activity in the brain can cause seizures, but knew this was a new and serious problem.

Eventually, she took an ambulance to Salem Hospital, where she was diagnosed with vertigo. Vertigo makes people feel dizzy or like the room is spinning, even if they’re sitting still. They can also feel nauseous, disoriented, and off-balance. It’s a challenging condition that can make it difficult to stand, walk, or function for everyday tasks.

Home Care treatment for vertigo

Joann was discharged to Mass General Brigham Home Care, which offers home-based advanced care for patients. Receiving treatment from Home Care was life-changing for Joann.

“I wasn’t comfortable driving, so being able to receive care at home after the hospital was so helpful. I didn’t have to worry about, ‘Am I going to make it out and back again to get the care I need?’ You don’t know how important that is until it happens to you — and you need the services,” says Joann.

Joann was seen in her home by a physical therapist, who treated her vertigo with exercises to restore her balance and resolve her symptoms. Additional Home Care visits from her physical therapist allowed Joann to continue her treatment while staying out of the hospital.

“Home Care offers a comprehensive line of services. This includes not only nursing, but therapies like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health aide services. Joann benefited from the skills of our vestibular-trained physical therapist, who worked with the patient using specific therapy interventions to help resolve her balance and vertigo issues in the privacy of her own home,” says Octavia Moniz, PT, MBA, senior clinical director for Mass General Brigham Home Care.

Vestibular care to restore balance

The type of physical therapy Joann received is called vestibular care, which treats the causes and relieves the symptoms of vertigo. Vertigo can be caused by problems with the inner ear or vestibular system, which is filled with sensors that tell the brain information about your balance within your environment. If this informational system gets disrupted, it can cause that dizzy or spinning sensation. Vestibular care includes repositioning exercises to realign the inner ear. Treatment can take several sessions, but patients often feel the relief quickly. 

“Within an hour after I received the therapy, I felt 50% better. I was so happy,” Joann confirms.

I’m so grateful to my Home Care physical therapist. Her high-level care and attention made me feel comfortable. These conditions can be scary, but she was so knowledgeable and supportive.

Joann Byrne
Mass General Brigham Home Care patient

The benefits of Home Care

Home Care is not only convenient for patients, but seeing a person’s home environment provides valuable information to their care teams.

For a condition like vertigo, the physical therapists will observe things like how patients are sleeping and the positioning of their head. Watching how they perform every day or household activities can reveal motions that affect the vestibular system. The physical therapist can then make suggestions for how to perform these activities in a way that won’t trigger vertigo.

Bridging intensive inpatient care and independent outpatient care

Home Care can be a bridge between a more intensive inpatient hospital stay and more independent, outpatient care. Home Care providers work closely with the patient’s primary care provider (PCP) and other members of the care team. They can receive specialty care like advanced nursing, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

“Home Care can accept patients and referrals from various sources, including acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, long term acute care facilities, and doctor’s office referrals. We treat a wide range of diagnosis and age groups. Home Care can also provide care for a longer period of time,” explains Moniz.

“I’m so grateful to my Home Care physical therapist. Her high-level care and attention made me feel comfortable. These conditions can be scary, but she was so knowledgeable and supportive,” says Joann.

After completing her in-home physical therapy, Joann has progressed enough to receive outpatient therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation. She now feels comfortable leaving her home and has more independence.

“I ended up feeling so much better. Now I’m comfortable to drive and go back to work. My experience with Home Care was amazing,” Joann says.


Octavia Moniz, PT, MBA
Senior Clinical Director, Mass General Brigham Home Care