Major James Avants with his wife, dog and care team

Retired U.S. Army Major James Avants served as a company commander in the Gulf War, but he recently found himself in a battle for his health.


Avants has Parkinson’s disease, and after he suffered two strokes, he was weak and unable to take care of himself. That’s when he came to Life Care Center of Waynesville, Missouri, for rehabilitation to help him get his vigor back.


When he arrived on May 24, 2018, Avants was having trouble with memory and needed extensive assistance to walk, get in and out of bed, roll over in bed, balance, bathe and get dressed. He needed moderate assistance with his daily grooming tasks as well.


Occupational therapists focused on restoring Avants’ self-care skills. They focused on visual perception retraining due to the loss of his left visual field, as well as neuromuscular reeducation for his left arm and hand to help him regain function.


Physical therapists addressed Avants’ mobility, strength and balance, especially on his left side. They helped him with posture, body awareness, core strengthening and range of motion, as well as using a metronome to help him decrease shuffling in his gait.


Speech therapists helped Avants improve his cognitive skills with memory and problem-solving exercises, as well as a focus on safety awareness.


“I thank all the staff here for getting me back on my feet,” said Avants. “Their professionalism is amazing. Bottom line is that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”


Avants is now independent in his bed mobility and sitting balance and can walk, transfer from one surface to another, stand and groom himself with supervision rather than assistance. His memory has improved, and he needs less help for bathing and dressing.


Physical and occupational therapists did a home evaluation with him and worked with Veterans Affairs to make necessary modifications to his house.


On July 17, Avants returned home to his wife, Shim, with help from home health physical and occupational therapies.