Healthy Living in the North

Therapeutic Recreation: a holistic approach to health

February is Therapeutic Recreation month, and although I don’t currently work in the field, I am very proud to have focused my education and first part of my career on this helping profession. Not many people are familiar with Therapeutic Recreation, also known as Recreation Therapy; it has been confused with such things as sports medicine and physiotherapy, but also has been shrugged off as simply any activity to combat boredom. Let me set the record straight on that, because Recreation Therapists are working non-stop to provide programs that are purposeful and goal-oriented down to an individual level.

Therapeutic Recreation is defined as “a health care profession that utilizes a therapeutic process, involving leisure, recreation and play as a primary tool for each individual to achieve their highest level of independence and quality of life” (CTRA, 2017).

seniors playing floor curling.

Being physically active in a group setting and cheering others on helps form social connections and bolster self-esteem.

Recreation Therapists can be found in a variety of settings, including:

  • Assisted living/seniors’ housing
  • Long term care
  • Children’s hospitals
  • Mental health services
  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Day centres
  • Private practice
  • …and many more.

One of the things that (in my mind) makes therapeutic recreation a unique and special field is its truly holistic approach to health. While many health care professions tend to be very targeted to one aspect of a patient’s health, recreation therapy works to improve the health of the person as a whole; they may focus on physical needs, but they may pay just as much attention to the emotional, cognitive, social, and/or spiritual needs that make up a person’s overall quality of life.

There are many benefits related to taking part in physical programming. Many chronic disease symptoms can be avoided, delayed, or better managed through physical activity. Working on maintaining or improving core strength and balance can help reduce the risk of falls. It’s also important to note that the benefits of participating in a physical program extend beyond the obvious goal of maintaining or increasing physical function. Participants may realize they’re gaining social connections as a result of taking part in physical programming as part of a group; they will likely experience a mood boost following participation; realizing they are capable of more than they were previously (or had expected to be) can also do much to bolster confidence and self-esteem.

I was able to catch up with a local Recreation Therapist, Jaymee Webster, to get her perspective on the benefits of therapeutic recreation programming in her work settings of inpatient rehabilitation unit and outpatient geriatric rehabilitation day program.

“Often when individuals are engaged in all aspects of the rehabilitation process they have better outcomes. Through recreation and physical activity our patients have the opportunity to see their progress from other therapies translate to meaningful engagement. For example, an individual working on regaining strength in the upper extremities feels a sense of accomplishment when they are able to score points in a game of floor curling.”

If you know or work with a Recreation Therapist or team providing therapeutic recreation programs, take a moment this month to watch them at work. Their creativity and passion for working to improve the lives of others at an individual level are truly inspiring.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Falling is not a “right of passage”; Falls Prevention Awareness Week

I’m approaching my 40th birthday. From where I stand now it seems impossible to me, that as kids we celebrated my parents 40th birthdays with black balloons, a cane, candy jellybean “pill” bottles, and a larger than life sign signifying “Over the Hill”.

Like these 40th birthday traditions, our culture embraces some aspects of aging that don’t make any sense. Take senior’s falls as an example, somehow as a society we accept that the majority of people experience a fall at some point as they age. Did you know that, for all age ranges, falling is a lead cause for injuries requiring hospitalization? No matter what age, we must all remember, falls are preventable!

November 6-12, 2017, marks the Finding Balance BC Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falling, tripping, or slipping happens now and then to all of us, but falling with risk of serious injury does not have to be a normal part of aging.

seniors, falls prevention

Keeping active now helps prevent future falls.

What can you do?

  • Get up and go.
    • Keep your body moving and active. Focus on strong muscles and good balance. Strength and balance exercises are key to reducing the risk of falling.
  • Have your eyes checked.
    • Visiting an optometrist once a year can reduce your risk of falling.
  • Review your medications.
    • Bring everything you take (both prescription and non-prescription) to your pharmacy or doctor for a review.
  • Make small changes to your home.
    • Simple hazards are sometimes overlooked and often, easily fixed.
    • Install handrails and guardrails where needed.
    • Add lighting in hallways and nightlights in bathrooms and bedrooms.
    • Secure or remove area rugs so they don’t become tripping hazard in your home.
    • Salt and sand walkways in winter months.

With November and my birthday approaching, let’s challenge the social norms -I refuse to blow up a single black balloon! Falling is not a “right of passage”, and making small changes to our lifestyle and surroundings is a smart investment to our health and well-being, no matter what age.

Join Northern Health and participate in the BC Finding Balance Falls Prevention Week. Visit the Finding Balance BC website and talk to your doctor if you have had a slip, trip, or fall in the last year.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Preventing injury with IMAGINE grants

This article was co-authored by Mandy Levesque and Denise Foucher.


Students touching jello brain

What would an injury prevention project look like in your community?

With the recent launch of the IMAGINE Community Grants offering funding up to $5,000, the time is right to take action to promote health and improve the well-being of our northern residents.

Injury prevention is one of the health promotion priorities we want to see as a project focus when the grant applications come in (deadline is October 31, 2016) and is definitely one way to ensure northern residents can stay healthy.

What injury prevention project idea would benefit your community?

Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are not “accidents.” They happen in similar, predictable patterns and as many as 90% of injuries can be prevented.

In B.C., preventable injuries that happen:

  • On the road,
  • From falling,
  • In or near water, and
  • From ATVs

are among the leading causes of death and hospitalization across all age groups. Those numbers are even higher among northern B.C. residents.

So, what does an injury prevention focused IMAGINE grant application actually look like?

Longboarders

IMAGINE in Prince Rupert supported safe longboarding. What types of injury prevention needs are there where you live?

Get inspired by these great ideas:

Water safety:

  • Host teen water safety swim nights at the local pool
  • Organize a Life Jacket Fashion Show

Falls prevention:

  • Get the gear for floor curling in community centres
  • Promote sidewalk safety in slippery winter conditions (e.g., install boxes with sand/grit and scoops) (more on falls prevention from FindingBalanceBC.ca)

Road safety:

  • Conduct a walkability assessment and look to make changes for safety (more on walkability from WalkBC.ca and HASTe)

Mental wellness:

IMAGINE grants support partnerships and build capacity, and create an opportunity to build lasting change in your community. Get your exciting injury prevention project applications in by October 31, 2016.

Injury prevention infographic


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Aging gracefully: Keep active and on your feet!

Did you know that November 2-8 is Fall Prevention Week? There’s a great new resource available to prevent falls in B.C. called Finding Balance. They focus on four important ways to prevent falls:

  1. Keep your body active.
  2. Have your eyes checked by an optometrist once a year.
  3. Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medications.
  4. Make your home safer.

We wanted to spend some time looking at their first recommendation!

Man on bicycle

Staying active – like biking to work or to the grocery store – will help you maintain your independence and avoid slips and falls.

Bodies are made to move!

Every older adult wants to live an active and independent life. Regular physical activity improves balance, increases strength and prevents falls. While we all age, get a little wrinkly, and have hair that turns grey (for most of us, anyways), poor balance, weak muscles and falls are not a normal part of aging. As we age, let’s follow the advice of poet Dylan Thomas and “not go gentle into that good night.”

So, where to start?

Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week!

Take charge of your body and be active to stay strong and maintain your mobility long into the golden years. Including movement in your day-to-day activities and exercising for strength, balance and coordination improves your overall health and quality of life: maintain your independence, stay active in your community, and avoid slips, trips and broken hips!

It’s never too late to get active and involved!

Start where you are today and build more activity into your daily routine bit-by-bit, working your way up to 150 minutes per week.

Being active can be fun! Try all kinds of activities like strength and balance exercises, dancing, lifting light weights, tai chi and yoga! Exercise can also include simple things like going for a walk, raking leaves, shovelling snow, bringing in firewood, or climbing the stairs. Be creative and enjoy what you choose to do!

Always make sure that you keep activity within your own personal limits and take measures to avoid injury. It is always a good idea to consult your health care provider before starting any new exercise program or increasing your level of physical activity significantly.


This post was co-authored by Holly Christian and originally published in the November issue of Healthier You magazine.

 

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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Youth falls: staying active and safe in the north

Families in Motion

Families in Motion teaches parents and children to play injury free.

When I was nine years old, my family went to Vancouver for a wedding. My three-year-old brother and I were playing in a house which was definitely not kid-friendly. We were upstairs and for some reason, my brother decided to go downstairs, but he tripped and went tumbling down. Everything happened so quickly; my childhood memories can recall every somersault motion as he rolled down the stairs. Being his big sister, I had this horrible feeling in my stomach because there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it at that point. Fortunately, he somehow came out of the incident unscathed and ended up at the bottom of the stairs without a scratch or a tear. We giggled about the incident after, but reflecting on it now, I realize how fortunate we are that he wasn’t seriously hurt. To this day, the thought of how my little brother could have been hurt still makes me shudder.

Families in Motion (FIM) is a program that tries to prevent incidents like the one my brother experienced and strives to provide a safe, injury-free environment. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the program with Cheryl Breitkreutz, North Peace Early Childhood Development Coordinator at FIM, and she told me how they help families like yours.

What does FIM offer?

Families in Motion is a partnership with not-for-profits to deliver a valuable opportunity for families to learn about the importance of gross motor activities and how to implement family fitness into their daily lives. We meet once a month at different locations around the community, free of charge, and offer a space where families can be active through interactive stations, obstacle courses, active games and soft play centres.

Why is it important for parents to check out FIM?

Providing a falls safe environment for children is an important preventive measure that minimizes risk of injury. As children explore their environment and try new skills, they don’t recognize hazards in their environment or other factors that may compromise their safety and well-being.  When setting up the physical layout we consider: age-appropriate design, adequate impact-absorbing surfaces around and beneath play structures, division of space into activity zones for different types of play, open sight lines and inspection/maintenance of equipment and play areas. Our volunteers teach and model equipment safety rules, and provide active supervision. In taking these precautions, families can focus on the experience of playing with their child and immerse themselves in the activity.

And how is it unique to northern BC?

Where for six months of the year the ground is covered by snow and the mercury drops far below zero, living in the north impacts the opportunity for children to engage in gross motor play. Families in Motion is a local initiative to get families moving, where parents lead by example and engage their children in being active as a family. Together they can experience physical activity in a safe environment out of the elements.

To learn more about this program, visit the Families in Motion website.

To enter Northern Health’s Falls Across the Ages contest, visit our contest page.

Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

About Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner

Sabrina is the lead for healthy community development with local governments with Northern Health’s population health team. Sabrina was born and raised in Terrace and loves calling northern BC home. She has been with Northern Health since 2007 and is passionate about empowering, supporting and partnering with northern communities as we collaboratively work towards building healthier communities. In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, playing and (sometimes obsessively) watching sports, hiking, camping, traveling and exploring the amazing north.

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