Effective recreation therapy blends understanding each person’s unique needs and their individual preferences to find activities that they will enjoy.

February is Recreation Therapy month and we wanted to shed some light on one of the many ways in which the recreation therapy team at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph supports residents’ physical, cognitive, spiritual, emotional and social needs.

Members of the recreation therapy team take part in a supportive recreation walk-about, making a point to go throughout neighbourhoods to support residents to engage in recreational activities. This is one of many programs offered on each neighbourhood weekly.

“Supportive recreation is not structured like other programs,” explains Karie Bilger, Clinical Lead of the Recreation Therapy Department. “This approach works best for people who are less comfortable leaving their neighbourhood, enjoy smaller group programs or one-on-one engagement, and for residents who have responsive behaviours.”

A cornerstone of recreation therapy is to help residents find meaningful activities that will give them a sense of purpose and control, as well as to smooth the way for each resident to succeed in completing the activities.

If a team member sees a resident wandering the halls, staff may approach them and offer an activity that they know is meaningful and successful for that particular resident. With this intervention, the team member has helped provide this resident a sense of purpose; they are no longer wandering aimlessly, and are engaged in a meaningful activity. Other residents might find meaning and purpose in activities like painting, sorting, or solving a puzzle, which team members can help set up or support in a variety of ways.

“The team members know the residents well and understand each resident’s needs, preferences and what environment works best for them. This knowledge is helpful in finding activities that will bring each person the meaning and purpose that is fundamental to recreation therapy,” adds Ms. Bilger.

Ultimately, recreation therapy provides residents and patients at St. Joseph’s with better quality of life and enjoyment, meeting each person where they are functionally and cognitively and enabling each person to participate in recreational activities that are appealing to them.