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Answer transcribed from Brightway's interview with recreational therapist Allison Huck:
There is a broad range of activities available. As a recreational therapist, part of my job is to involve patients and their families in their goal setting. I typically always ask people during evaluations or assessments the first time we're meeting: “what do you want to be able to do when you go home?” Usually, their first response is to walk or go to the bathroom, but when we dive a little bit deeper, I encourage my patients to reflect on the things that they enjoy doing. If they were to go home today, what barriers do they have to do those? This includes things that would make that activity difficult to do or do safely at work.
I do everything from playing games like Uno, other card games, and board games to getting people on an adaptive cycle and riding around the hospital halls. I do a little adaptive gaming, so I'm a big fan of the Xbox adaptive controller. This teaches people how to engage in things they were doing with one hand. Also, even doing things like adaptive yoga is a big interest of mine. We do things at the hospital but we also take people on community outings. What that means is once a week, in normal times one other therapist and I, either a physical occupational or speech therapist, take two to three patients out in the community and have a little planning meeting. The patients plan the outing, so we go over what their personal goals are and what we need to prepare for the outing. We pick a location and being that we're in DC, we have a lot of great places to choose from. We've got tons of free museums so we go to the monuments. We've also gone to see the cherry blossoms one year. Sometimes we even just go to Target or the grocery store with anticipation of a cooking task in mind later. When we're out, we work on all the therapy goals that people have been working on in the hospital. But in our more real-world setting, there's also usually lunch involved and food is always a plus.
Outings are such an important step in the rehab process. It's like a transition goal from inpatient rehab to going home. We get to try out what they've been working on and see if it works out in the real world. Ultimately, we get to arm our patients with a better sense of their abilities and empower them to get out of the house once they go home. We don't want people to go home and stay home, we want people to go home and live their lives.
I think that picking things that are motivating to people can also be more motivating to work on when things get difficult. That's where our team approach comes into play, where they might really want to work on this one thing that they perceive as fun or motivating, but PT, OT, and speech therapy might play their role in helping them be successful. It's kind of like we're taking everyone's goals and things that they're working on and combining them into one holistic activity. This is where everyone comes into play, and everyone is an equal player so a lot of people are interested in the motivational side of things.