“Who’s ready to toss the rock,” asks recreation therapist Andrew Clark as about a dozen residents of the Mt. Cartier Court residential care facility gather behind him.
Today, the residents are curling. Yesterday, they might have spent time outside. About five days a week and twice a day the residents at what is locally known as “The Cottages” are engaged in some kind of group activity. It’s part of what sets the level of care at Mt. Cartier Court apart.
According to a 2015 study published by economist Martha MacDonald, British Columbia and Ontario spend the least nation-wide on long-term residential senior health care. For that reason it’s far from uncommon to hear complaints province wide about access to extended home care and funding for residential health care. But in Revelstoke, something seems to be working.
According to the British Columbia Office of the Seniors Advocate, about 40 per cent of the residents at the Mt. Cartier Court residential care facility, which administers health care to seniors, rated the overall quality of the care they receive as “excellent” or “very good.” Half said they would recommend the facility to others. And notably, more than 60 per cent of the residents regularly take part in recreation therapy, which is double the provincial average.
Mt. Cartier Court recreational therapist Andrew Clark, who was born in New Brunswick, and has worked at the facility administering care since it opened in 2011, described his job as more than anything else just being able to put smiles on people’s faces.
“I would easily say that Revelstoke is an anomaly in terms of providing this level, kind of service, and quality of care,” said Clark. “Really the job is just about putting smiles on people’s faces.”
And that’s basically what Clark’s job entails: making people feel valued, cared for, and active.
According to the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association, recreation therapy recognizes “leisure” as a key component of a well-rounded quality of life.
As much as it is therapeutic, the practice is really just about listening and getting the residents engaged in social activities. Clark said that it ends up being cathartic, but really it’s just about giving the residents the chance to live the life they always have had.
“The activities are geared directly to what the residents did before they came here,” said Clark.
The kinds of things recreation therapy can include at Mt. Cartier are going out for a walk as a group, planting in the garden, curling together, listening to music, knitting, playing bingo, visits from school children, and trivia.
The activities that are selected for the residents are decided on a personal and case by case basis.
Clark and the staff will hold a interview with a resident — and in some cases when they are unable to effectively communicate, with their families — to determine what they liked to do before they were residents at Mt. Cartier.
Clark said each patient has their own unique therapeutic care plan.
The residents have group activities in the morning and the afternoon.
There are regularly scheduled visits from children at Arrow Heights Elementary.
The Mt. Cartier Court facility has 44 private rooms spread over three wings, a nurse on duty 24 hours a day, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, pharmacists, dietitian, and physician support. It also has about 75 volunteers.
About a quarter of the residents have been diagnosed with depression, and 66 per cent, about the same number as those who partake in recreation therapy, have been diagnosed with dementia. For those residents things like having Clark help them toss the rock, play with a puppy, or interact with school children, makes all the difference.