Therapeutic Recreation: Doctor-Ordered Fun At A Rehabilitation Facility

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If you or a family member is staying at an inpatient rehabilitation facility and someone hands you an iPod and claims it's part of your treatment, don't look at them funny. Yes, even a digital music player will be prescribed by a doctor who believes in therapeutic recreation.

Therapeutic recreation meets basic client needs.

Therapeutic recreation is a clinical specialty that rehabilitation hospitals and facilities depend on every day to lift the spirits and improve the life skills of their patients.

The purpose of all therapeutic recreation is life-enhancement for patients. Recreational therapists use all types of activities to help clients improve their physical and cognitive abilities. Dance, exercise, ropes courses, and yoga are some of the activities used to build body strength and coordination. Solving puzzles, playing card games, sewing, and practicing musical instruments help patients to exercise their minds.

Recreational therapists also seek to help patients adjust emotionally. Clients work out their frustration, sadness, or gratitude through art therapy, intense physical exercise, and garden work.

Therapeutic recreation creates opportunities for clients to socialize and have leisure time when they are inpatients undergoing treatment. Parties, dances, and ice cream socials help bring isolated patients out of their rooms and into the company of others. Leisure activities help inpatient rehabilitation patients find enjoyment even while hospitalized.

Therapeutic recreation is an old idea with new twists.

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks came up with the idea, but it wasn't until fairly recently that recreational therapy was viewed as a clinical specialty. Prior to the 1980s, therapeutic recreation was viewed as a social activity with little connection to medical outcomes.

Soldiers in the 1940s were some of the first modern patients to benefit from therapeutic recreation, but it soon spread to state hospitals for mentally impaired patients and to nursing homes for the elderly. It became clear that activities that enhance patients' feelings of well-being lead to happier people who have an easier time transitioning back into normal life or adjusting to an altered life plan.

Today's recreational therapists use a variety of modern tools and materials to help their clients feel good and build on their strengths. This is one of the reasons for using a digital music player as part of therapy.

Alzheimers patients prove the power of therapeutic recreation.

At one facility for older residents, an Eagle Scout led a project to load up iPods with songs that Alzheimers patients would remember from their younger years. The patients listen to their own individual song mixes for 30 minutes at a stretch.

The residents may have trouble with recent memories, but the old beloved songs are easily recalled and often calm patients or make them smile. And making patients smile may be therapeutic recreation's most successful outcome ever.

Contact a professional rehabilitation center, like Gateway Rehabilitation Hospital, to find out more about their inpatient rehabilitation and therapeutic recreation.