Used in conjunction with occupational and physical therapy, therapeutic recreation helps patients with cognitive, emotional and social complications to build confidence through hobbies and leisure activities. For some individuals, the goal is resuming their interests after an accident, and for others, it is developing new interests and staying busy.
Upon arriving at Bacharach, patients receive a leisure assessment to determine what they enjoy doing and that assessment is used to create a personalized therapeutic recreation schedule. For example, one patient loves playing Mahjong, a game that involves picking up tiles, so the therapeutic rec team sets up a Mahjong game. Another example is a weekly poker session organized for a group of men who love playing cards. Regardless of a patient’s interest, each session feels like so much fun that it doesn’t seem like therapy.
“When it comes to therapeutic recreation, no one is forced to participate,” said therapeutic recreation aide Suzanne Grassi, ADC. “We highly encourage patients to become involved since it is a great way for them to utilize their leisure time. Some patients are hesitant at first and don’t want to go, but after the first session, the hesitation vanishes and they keep coming back.”
The list of activities at Bacharach’s therapeutic recreation department is endless. Patients can participate in crafts, try different types of therapy like art and music therapy and experience live performances, including barbershop quartets, hand bells and even a stand-up comic.
Bacharach therapeutic recreation coordinator and certified therapeutic recreation specialist Lynn Foulke said, “It’s good for people to use their leisure time constructively to take their minds off the pain. In some cases we have community outings outside of Bacharach for patients to practice what they’ve learned at Bacharach in a public setting. Within the facility, we have pet therapy once a month, non-alcohol margarita days and social gatherings. There’s no getting burned out with a job like this. It’s so rewarding.”
While it seems like just fun and games, therapeutic recreation reteaches patients how to do the things they used to love. “We use special equipment to help patients work their way back into their favorite activities,” said Foulke. “There is a computer screen with enlarged font and a mouse, a Wii to retrain people for golf and bowling and talking books. We work with multiple sclerosis patients to teach them how to write again or have patients with hand-eye coordination issues pick up tiles. It’s fun, but it changes people’s lives.”
The local community even gets involved. Stockton students who are interested in therapeutic recreation as a career come in and volunteer their time. They set up various crafts and activities for patients to enjoy, which also gives them a chance to interact with patients.
Grassi said, “I don’t know where the time goes because I never feel like I’m working. Watching patients make improvements in their quality of life and having the opportunity to make a difference is an incredible feeling.”