Rehab in the park offers a break from the routine

Activities were fun and therapeutic

Executive Summary:

Subject: Rehab in the Park, a daylong outing for patients

Provider: The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara (CA)

Essential points:
• Outing combined therapeutic activities with fun.
• All medically stable patients participated on one of two days.
• The program, planned by therapeutic recreation department, included sports activities, games, and lunch
• Hospital staff, volunteers, and family members helped with patients.

Patients at the Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara (CA) had the opportunity last summer to escape the hospital routine for a day of fun at a local park.

The hospital’s therapeutic recreation staff coordinated Rehab in the Park, a day of activities for all patients and family members who wanted to participate.

"Initially, the idea came out of our interest in doing a special event to celebration National Therapeutic Recreation Week in mid-July," says Libby Whaley, MHA, RTC, CTRS, director of therapeutic recreation at the institute.

The therapeutic recreation staff brainstormed to come up with an event that would involve staff and patients and give the public a chance to see what recreation therapy is about. They came up with a day’s schedule in the park combining therapeutic activities with fun. (For details on how to plan an off-campus event, see the related article)

Patients were divided into two groups for the off-campus activities. One group participated one day, while the rest of the patients stayed at the hospital for a regular schedule. The biggest day included 14 patients and about 25 staff and volunteers. Staff were two therapists from each clinical department, physical therapy and occupational therapy aides, and representatives from nursing, nutritional services, and housekeeping. The full therapeutic recreation staff coordinated the activities on both days.

The hospital’s nutritional services arranged to grill hot dogs and hamburgers and provided special meals for patients who needed them. Nursing was on hand to dispense medication and provide other care when needed. The staff took along a suction machine so patients with tracheotomies could participate. Even the hospital’s pet therapy dog was there to chase balls and cheer up everyone.

The institute’s director of volunteer services assembled a group to help set up and clean, assist with wheelchairs, and do whatever else was needed.

The Rehab in the Park activities were more than just a day of fun. All were planned with therapeutic goals in mind. For example, patients helped prepare lunch and mix lemonade, which gave them an opportunity to reinforce their therapy and practice their homemaking skills. Family members who participated transported the patients to the park in the family car, which gave them a chance to practice wheelchair transfers; other patients were transported in the hospital van.

A big picnic’

Activities started at 9 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. "We tried to make it like a big picnic," Whaley says. Morning activities included sports such as adaptive golf, adaptive volleyball, boccie ball, table games, an adaptive bike, and a craft group. The afternoon was reserved for group activities such as a pie-eating contest and a relay race that required patients to put on several items of clothing. Staff also brought rhythm instruments so patients could participate in a drum circle.

"The day gave patients a chance to experience being in the real world, learning and having therapy in one fell swoop," says Melinda Staveley, MS, RN, vice president of clinical services and chief operating officer.

Some staff stayed at the hospital to treat patients who were not medically stable enough to go or who didn’t want to participate. Patients who did participate were from all diagnoses and had all levels of independence. Some were in wheelchairs, while others were on walkers or could ambulate with help. Some patients came to the park for only an hour if that was all they could tolerate.

The event was covered by the local newspaper and television stations.

Next year, the staff plans to schedule a board of trustees meeting during Rehab in the Park as a way to involve the board in the active therapy of patients, Staveley says.

For more information on Rehab in the Park, contact:

Libby Whaley, The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, 427 Camino del Remedio, Santa Barbara, CA 93110. Telephone: (805) 683-3788, ext. 102. Fax: (805) 683-0381.