Mental health patients gain strength in mind, body and spirit

Mondays are busy days for Robert N. He starts off his morning with some singing, followed by an exercise class. After that it is lunch, then he meets with fellow patients for some thinking and memory activities.

Robert first came to Villa Caritas, a specialized care facility for seniors with mental illness, more than a year ago. He wasn’t able to walk or form thoughts clearly.  

“I was incapacitated,” says Robert. “I could not handle being on my own.” But he says that as he spends time working with the care team, particularly the rehabilitation staff, he is starting to become stronger.  

In the Sing it Loud and Clear program, residents practice using their voice and learn good breathing habits. Breath control and singing can be calming and build confidence for people with anxiety.

Villa Caritas has had rehab programming since it opened six years ago, but in September 2016 the rehabilitation programming at the facility was revamped, enhanced and customized to further support patient needs.

“This is an acute facility,” says Erin Meikle, Unit Manager for Rehabilitation Services. “We needed to further enhance the rehabilitation program knowing that Villa Caritas is not their final destination. What could we do to best prepare our patients for their next step?”

The solution? The rehab team introduced a new schedule that is unique to Villa Caritas. Rehab programming was enhanced so that every patient now has access to programs that focus on mind, body and spirit.

The Exercise Level 1 program “helps residents maintain their mobility, strength and endurance, as well as their mental and social well-being” says Mildred Erena, Physical Therapy Assistant. Participation has almost doubled since the program was revamped.

The other change was to increase the collaboration between the rehabilitation staff. Recreation therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology programs are now better co-ordinated so patients can take full advantage of everything offered.  

Lynn Burge, Recreation Therapy Assistant, is seeing first-hand how patients are benefiting. “As an employee here, it is nice to see the difference from when they come in and when they leave,” she says. “[Robert] has come a long way.”

“You see that you are not labouring doing the program and you are saying [to yourself], ‘Hey, you are doing OK,'” says Robert. “You do not need someone to tell you that. You are following the program, and I have even started to push myself.”

The Thinking and Memory program is about “triggering their minds and giving them something to think about,” says Lynn. “This program motivates their thinking a little bit more.”

Robert’s next goal is to be able to walk without the assistance of his walker. He is working hard to achieve this, and thanks to the rehab team, he is well on his way to doing so.

Additional Resources:

Recovery Model of Care (Villa Caritas Rehab Program based on this model)

Edmonton Seniors supports:


Edmonton Senior Centres

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