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Can rehabilitation be enjoyable?

Created date

February 20th, 2014
patient receiving rehabilitation
patient receiving rehabilitation

No matter which kind of therapy you’re participating in, outpatient rehabilitation is hard work. If you’ve had a joint replacement, your physical therapist might take you through some repeated exercises to strengthen your muscles. If you’ve had a stroke, your occupational therapist might have you practice new ways to cook, bathe, or eat.  

So after a long, rigorous session at outpatient therapy, wouldn’t a massage be nice?

Massage is an example of a wellness service, one of many offered at Erickson Living campuses. The concept of wellness has taken hold in recent years. Wellness services are those that can help you maintain your health or optimize your usual medical treatment plan. They can include anything that benefits your body, mind, or spirit.

What’s different about wellness services at Erickson Living is that they are intended to complement traditional outpatient therapy. Practically any standard rehabilitation program can help you achieve a better level of functioning after surgery or illness, but those that add a wellness element can make the healing process interesting, enjoyable, and might even yield some unexpected benefits.

Past experience shows how wellness works. “People throughout history who have lived long and healthy lives have usually practiced a wellness lifestyle, including plenty of physical activity, good nutrition, stress management, and socialization, “says Monika Eller, OTR, C/NDT, an occupational therapist and business development manager at Erickson Living.

Wellness and movement

Physical activity is a key element of wellness. “Getting your body moving is one of the best ways to cope with the physical changes that accompany aging,” Eller explains. “It boosts your energy, lifts your mood, and helps you be as independent as possible.” 

“Our rehab and wellness programs are designed to improve functioning after an acute illness or surgery, and they offer Erickson Living residents many ways to be more active even if they are in good health,” says Brian Tremaine, M.D., medical director at Trace, an Erickson Living community in Houston, Tex. “It’s absolutely essential for people to stay as active as possible no matter what their health problems are. The less you move now, the less you’ll be able to move in the future.”

“Some people believe that when they have completed rehab, they have accomplished their goals and are back to their baseline functioning,” Eller says. “But you have to persevere with a program—you could reverse some of the gains you’ve made after only four days of inactivity.”

Erickson Living residents can take advantage of the on-campus fitness center, pool, and a number of activity-oriented classes. Personal trainers are available to help you customize a program. “Our personal trainers are available to work with you in your home if you prefer,” Eller says.  

Something for everyone

Many activities and services may not directly involve physical activity, but participating may help you be more active. There are services for people with low vision, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and even incontinence.

“We’ve had some good results with our incontinence treatments in the outpatient rehab centers,” Tremaine says. “Some residents have been able to reduce or eliminate medication entirely.”

Eller gives an example: “Adding pilates to standard treatments for incontinence can help some people control their condition better. Pelvic fitness classes have also shown promise for improving symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction,” she explains.

Massage is becoming an especially popular choice for all residents. “You can choose from a whole menu of massage therapies such as hot stone, aromatherapy, foot reflexology, chair massage, in-home massage services, and many others,” Eller says. “Each is designed specifically for seniors and our therapists can help you decide what’s best for you.”

Many outpatient rehabilitation and wellness programs are for people of any age with any disability. “All Erickson Living programs are targeted for seniors and their specific needs,” Tremaine says. “Our therapists and staff are adept at understanding the limitations and concerns older adults may have. They are skilled in individualizing treatment plans for each person to help them be as independent as possible.”