Studies show that Vitamin D is essential to our health. A lack of Vitamin D is associated with a weak immune system, fatigue and depression. However, for many, walking outside to enjoy the sun isn’t as simple as it may seem.
That’s why Bridgepoint’s Sunshine Group aims to provide outdoor opportunities to patients that may not be able to spend time outside due to complex mobility and other health related issues.
The initiative helps provide cognitive, sensory and social stimulation. “We want to provide patients with a sense of normalcy,” says Melissa Byers, recreation therapist, with her colleagues Amy Plewe-Haley, recreation therapist assistant and Erika Sy, occupational therapist.
The team supplies different props or modalities according to each session’s theme. For beach week, they mist water on patients’ arms and play soothing wave sounds. They also bring sand, seashells, and rocks for patients to touch. These objects replicate the tactile experience of sitting on a sandy beach.
Erika admits that there are often constraints involved in taking patients with complex health conditions outdoors.
That’s where colleagues from other disciplines are there to step in and help. A nursing team ensures that patients are up on their wheelchairs and ready to attend. Respiratory therapists provide support for those with tracheostomy needs. Therapy porters assist with getting patients to and from the sessions.
The Sunshine Group has run for two years to great success. Melissa, Amy and Erika report enthusiastic response from patients and families and regular participation in the program for every month that it runs during the summer.
Perhaps the most rewarding result of the Sunshine Group is the smiles on patients’ faces.