Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Seniors

Aquatic rehabilitation finds a natural home in assisted living environments

Physical therapists in private practice are generally aware of the advantages that aquatic therapy brings to their patients and their business. Sometimes overlooked are the benefits to an older population in a variety of short- and long-term environments, whether they’re recovering from a health challenge or merely interested in maintaining their fitness and conditioning.

At the Sunshine Terrace Foundation, which provides a range of residential and healthcare services to the community of Logan, Utah, we have recognized the role of aquatic rehabilitation and its ability to restore and maintain fitness and independence.

Throughout its 65-year history, the Sunshine Terrace Foundation has grown from a small nursing home housing 12 women to a campus of health services comprising short-term and long-term rehabilitation, assisted living, senior exercise, health education, and occupational, physical and aquatic therapy. The foundation employs a staff of 335 and is one of the largest employers in Cache Valley.

Commitment to Quality

Sunshine Terrace Foundation has a reputation across Utah and nationwide as an innovative organization with a strong commitment to quality care for the elderly. Residents of Cache Valley continue to support Sunshine Terrace much as they did during its inception. Residents still give of their money and their time through volunteering at the foundation, and residents still recognize the need for a not-for-profit health organization in the valley.

aquaworx aquatic therapyIn 1997 the Adult Day program of the Sunshine Terrace Foundation got a building of its own — the Kathryn Caine Wanlass Adult Day Center — across the street. While the day care program closed in 2008, the Wanlass center is now home to AquaWorx Physical Therapy & Fitness and Sunshine Home Health & Hospice. Our home health business began in 2010, offering nursing, therapy and aide services to patients in their home environment. Hospice followed in 2012, providing comfort care and symptom management for patients at the end of life.

The Sunshine Terrace also opened the MaRee Clawson and Vernon Maughan Buehler Assisted Living Center. Residents who can no longer live at home alone, but are still well enough to handle many of life’s challenges, can move into this apartment-like environment where they have most of the freedoms of living at home, but where a team can provide meals, laundry service, recreation opportunities, room cleaning and help with other chores.

We focus on “Forty and Finer,” so we’re geared toward that aging population. Because we’re in a farming community, many older folks didn’t grow up in the gym. They grew up in the fields, working their farms, so it’s an odd concept for them to work out in a gym.

We have an exercise specialist on hand every day, walking through the workout room. They work individually with clients and take them through the gamut of what they should or can be doing. If the client forgets, the exercise specialist is right there for them to teach proper technique.

Aquatic Therapy’s Role

I’ve been with the foundation for 22 years, and have filled a range of roles from CNA to accounts receivable. When people come in here they feel friendship, healing, purpose and safety. It’s palpable.
In January 2010 I was asked to assume the role of administrator of AquaWorx Physical Therapy & Fitness, one of four entities under the auspices of The Sunshine Foundation. AquaWorx is an outpatient clinic offering physical, occupational, and aquatic therapy. AquaWorx also offers a fitness center for adults 40 and older with an exercise specialist on site and available to provide assistance at all times.

aquaworx rehabilitation servicesAquaWorx focuses on physical exercise and offers equipment designed to protect the bodies of seniors. Aquatic therapy is a valuable treatment modality for many of our patient populations. For example, someone who has sustained a stroke may experience balance issues. If they’ve had a knee replacement, there are mobility issues. If someone has been immobile for a while and has gained some weight, water is a tremendous way to get started on a consistent exercise routine.

Our physical therapy department loves the water for their patients who have “hit a wall” and aren’t progressing. We put them in the pool and they are able to surpass any plateaus in therapy. Aquatic therapy delivers benefits that you can’t achieve with other approaches.

Our therapy pool features a fully operating treadmill and adjustable depths to help move sore or injured limbs without the usual pain. The pool allows patients to carry as little as zero percent of their body weight in water.

With adjustable water temperature and jets, the pool provides deep-tissue massage as well as resistance to enhance muscle strength and improve range of motion during rehabilitation. With treadmill speeds from 0.1 to 8.5 miles per hour and adjustable depths, we can accommodate any need while providing low-impact therapy.

Meeting Client Needs

Our aquatic therapy program is merely one way we’re meeting the needs of a deserving community.

From its board members, to administrators, nurses, CNAs, cooks, maintenance personnel and others, the Sunshine Group has been blessed with bright, capable professionals who have made the organization the success it is today. Our therapists truly care about others, and our clients know they are safe when they’re here. This really endears our clients to our employees. And it’s fun for all of us that way.

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