St. Joseph’s partners with Chelsey Park to offer a transitional swim program that builds confidence and helps patients get back into motion
Kevin Arding suffered a stroke last June that paralyzed the right side of his body. He began to regain mobility through Parkwood Hospital’s stroke rehabilitation program, but something was still amiss for Kevin — his confidence.
On the recommendation of Kellie Barker, a therapeutic recreation specialist (TRS) on the Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team (CSRT), Kevin was referred to the transitional swim program that had just started running out of Chelsey Park Health Club.
The initial pilot program, known as the Accessible Seniors Aquatic Program (ASAP), tested the waters, so to speak, at the Horton Street Seniors’ Centre in collaboration with Third Age Outreach team and members of the Geriatric Rehabilitation Day Hospital. The recreational program was so popular that staff sought another community partner that could run it from their facility. Chelsey Park was an ideal fit for a second program, known as the Transitional Accessible Aquatic Program for Seniors (TAAPS), which already had trained staff in their health club to provide safe and fun aquatic exercises. Kellie and TRS Kim de Nijs, Specialized Geriatric Services, continue to manage TAAPS referrals and run pre and post-tests to document participants overall progress. In addition to staff, volunteers and caregivers help support participants in the pool.
On Kevin’s first day in TAAPS back in November, he had to be chair-lifted into the pool. Today Kevin takes the stairs, holding on to the rail and jovially announcing to the class he brought one of his rock and roll CDs. The oldies they had been playing make him want to fall asleep in the water, he jokes.
From the moment Kevin gets into the warm 92degree saltwater therapeutic pool he doesn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. Between the good-natured banter he keeps up with other participants and aides, and the simple exercises that help him improve his balance, his confidence has soared. He is no longer that person who stayed indoors since having his stroke.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence since my first day in class,” says Kevin. “I was surprised at how simple exercises could help me with my mobility. It’s made me a lot more self-assured in my lifestyle too. Before I wouldn’t leave my house at all. Now I get out of my house and I’m a social butterfly.”
“The improvements and increased confidence in our participants has justified the need for more specialized aquatic programs,” says Bev Regan, therapeutic recreation specialist with Specialized Geriatric Services' Third Age Outreach program and the creator of ASAP.
Programs like TAAPS and ASAP are not just for seniors or those who have had a stroke. The aquatic activities can also help individuals living with osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, visual impairment and other conditions.
“The bottom line is you can move in the water like you can’t move on land,” says Kellie. “It is empowering for our participants to be able to walk freely in the water without the fear of falling.”
TAAPS is a referral-based program that runs twice a week for eight weeks, four times a year. Participants are asked to pay $35 per eight-week session. Caregivers and volunteers do not have to pay the fee. For further information, contact Kellie Barker 519 685-4292 ext. 42468 or Kim de Nijs ext. 42764.