February is Therapeutic Recreation Month: Unmasking the possibilities
By Kim Durst-Mackenzie, Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we offer traditional Therapeutic Recreation (TR) services to our residents and patients. With the cancellation of all group activities and the need to practice hand hygiene and social and physical distancing, Therapeutic Recreation Services (TRS) has been exploring creative and alternative ways to provide recreation activities.
It all started with the creation of the seasonal activity bags for the patients and residents in isolation. These gave them activities to do from the safety of their own beds or rooms, such as word searches, Sudoku puzzles, crafts, colouring, drawing or painting. Cards and books were also available on demand.
Building on activity bags, our TRS team began organizing virtual calls to maintain social connections to family and friends for our patients and residents. These were crucial to maintaining their sense of well-being - Given the limited on-site visitations, arrangements to have a FaceTime, Zoom or Skype calls were established and continue to be an important tool for social connection as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
During the summer and fall, our TRS team was able to evolve from virtual calls and began establishing window visits and outdoor visits for the patients, residents and their loved ones - A special thanks to the team members who rescheduled therapy or who assisted, helping to make these new activities possible!
Additionally, thanks to a generous donation of iPads, we were able to host individual Zoom concerts. Volunteers prepared piano concerts, Ontario Health Arts provided a weekly concert, and we were also invited to a concert hosted by Elisabeth Dobson, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. This gave our residents the unique opportunity to talk to her about their experiences living in long-term care during these challenging times.
Amidst the pandemic, we have also virtually celebrated milestone birthdays, anniversaries and attended marriage ceremonies. We’ve connected with family and friends across Canada and around the world. Calls have been made to British Columbia, Nova Scotia, England, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. The patients, residents and their loved ones have been very appreciative of the social connection and the festivities involved.
Among our favourite adapted activities this past year are the Reindeer Hunt and the Christmas and Valentine’s e-cards, created especially for our residents’ loved ones. These cards, which include portrait photos and a message, have been sent to families of residents in our long-term care residences to keep everyone connected during special occasions. The Reindeer Hunt was especially fun during the month of December - Residents had an opportunity to throw balls and use Nerf guns to hunt “reindeer” in the trees. Smiles and laughter were abundant during the holiday season!
On behalf of the Therapeutic Recreation Services team, we are looking forward to resuming some regular activities but are also thankful for the opportunity to try new and innovative ideas that are specific to the needs and interests of the patients and residents.
Happy Therapeutic Recreation Month!