February is National Therapeutic Recreation Month, and this provides an opportunity for us to educate the public about what TR is, and why it’s important.  Therapeutic Recreation is a process that utilizes treatment, education, and recreation participation to help people with illnesses, disabilities and other conditions.   Recreation Therapists provide a variety of activities and opportunities to assist our clients in maintaining or improving their level of functioning and well-being.  This can be achieved through such modalities as sports, arts and crafts, music, wellness programs, games, religious programs and leisure education.

The benefits of therapeutic recreation activities include:

  • Improved cognitive skills
  • Improved fine and gross motors skills
  • Increased mobility
  • Decreased levels of stress, agitation and anxiety
  • Enhanced stimulation of the senses
  • Increased socialization
  • Elevated energy levels
  • Reduction in depression and feelings of boredom
  • Opportunity for creative expression
  • Improved sense of self-worth and accomplishment
  • Greater longevity and physical health

In a nursing home or other residential care setting, therapeutic recreation is a state-mandated part of the care plan, and is considered as important as other care disciplines.  This is because a resident’s social, spiritual and emotional well-being is just as important as his or her physical well-being, and often one affects the other.  Residents who participate in therapeutic recreation activities report feelings of increased health and decreased levels of stress.  Whether it’s in large group activities or one-on-one interventions, Therapeutic Recreation is an essential part of residents’ lives.

The pursuit of leisure, however, should be a life-long quest.  Studies have shown that families who share leisure time together create stronger bonds and promote healthy development in children.  Pursuing meaningful leisure interests not only contributes to your optimal health, it improves your quality of life.  So go ahead- read a book, join a social club, take a Yoga class or challenge yourself to learn something new.  The opportunities – and the benefits – are endless!

By:  Dawn Lettau, CTRS

Dawn is the Director of Therapeutic Recreation at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

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