Mitali Vyas relishes her role as Rehabilitation Manager for The New Jewish Home’s Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA). The Program helps ensure that older adults living in their own homes receive the support they need to remain healthy, safe and comfortable. The New Jewish Home’s CHHA provides physical, speech and occupational therapy, social work and nutrition counseling. Clients also receive home health aide services through the CHHA.

Mitali oversees a team of 20 physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists.

These employees are providing critical in-home services, even more so during the COVID-19 outbreak. And during this difficult time, Mitali is pitching in and stepping out from behind her desk and joining her colleagues on the front lines. Even if it means potentially putting her family in harm’s way.

Originally from Mumbai, India, Mitali received her bachelor’s degree there, she moved to the United States and earned her master’s degree in physical therapy from MGH Institute of Health Professions. Her first job was as a pediatric physical therapist, working with middle and high school students who had developmental or physical disabilities. While she found the job fulfilling, she wanted to pursue a career working with a different population.

That brought her to The New Jewish Home in 2014 and to her current management role three years later.

Mitali adds that while it’s been more challenging to treat patients in times of COVID, her team has always had proper personal protection equipment (PPE) and is well trained in infection control.

“We help our recovering COVID patients do the things they were able to do before getting sick — cook, dress and clean themselves and regain their strength and balance — all with the goal of getting them to be as independent as possible,” Mitali says.

She tells the story of one of her patients — let’s call him Mr. H. — a hairdresser who recently had to have his left leg amputated below his knee. As someone who had to stand up for great lengths of time in his work, this amputation was not only physically challenging, it took an emotional toll.

On top of all of this, Mr. H contracted COVID-19 during his recovery at a nursing home, not part of The New Jewish Home system. Upon returning home, Mitali was determined to help Mr. H get to a better place.

Initially, Mr. H was not on board with his plan of care. Aside from his emotional challenges, he had put on a lot of weight. “He could not even get out of bed. Basically, Mr. H had to relearn activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, cooking and using the bathroom all over again. And this time with a prosthetic leg,” Mitali describes.  Mr. H’s family members were struggling too — they were overwhelmed.

But Mitali persisted. She worked with Mr. H over the course of seven weeks — and it probably comes as no surprise this wasn’t easy. However, there was good progress.

In time, following the program Mitali and her team set up, Mr. H became able to dress himself. He could get around his home on his own. And use the bathroom. 

By the end of his course of physical therapy, Mr. H was even cooking breakfast for his family, essentially back to his pre-hospitalization level of ability — and equally important, with a renewed spirit and passion to return to his hair salon.

While inspiring achievements like this really resonate with Mitali, she realizes that even with taking all of the necessary COVID precautions, she could be putting her husband and 18-month-old son at risk.

Despite these concerns, Mitali says she loves being in the field and couldn’t imagine working with a better team. “My husband asked me: What would I rate my job satisfaction on a scale of one to ten? This was easy: 10! I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”