How do we best serve our patient’s in long term care when it comes to “wellness”? And, just what does “wellness” mean? From the view of a therapist it may mean walking better, dressing and grooming independently, following appropriate nutritional guidelines and in general, just being able to care for personal needs both physical and emotional.

What does it mean to you, as an individual? As Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists, we are in a unique position to enhance the function as well as quality of life for our patient’s. But, what about the quality of our own personal lives? How do you care for yourself, find personal life balance while living in an ever changing health care industry, and deal with increased demands on your time? If we desire to deliver this crucial component of care (wellness) to our patient’s, it is vital to first “train the teacher”.

The National Wellness Institute, the nation’s premier organization for wellness education and research defines the wellness concept as six-dimensional.

1. Emotional—Emphasizing awareness and acceptance of one’s feelings.
Reflects to what degree a person feels positive and enthusiastic about life.

2. Intellectual—Promotes expansion of knowledge through varying
resources and cultural activities.

3. Physical—Promotes activities to increase muscular strengthening,
cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. Encourages healthy lifestyle

4. Social—Fosters the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships.
Fosters positive interaction within the community to improve the welfare of
the community.

5. Spiritual—Involves development of personal values and ethics, seeking of
meaning and purpose in human experience. This area is self-determined.

6. Vocational—encourages the development of new skills through meaningful

As health care providers, when we review these components of wellness, we must ask ourselves if we have addressed these areas of need in our personal lives and if we have a genuine plan to improve our own personal health and wellness. It is crucial that we examine ourselves first! Only then can we begin to mentor and improve the lives of the patient’s we serve. It is through our personal experiences and clear understanding of maintaining health that we can lend our expertise to our clients. So, how do we achieve wellness? Begin by reviewing each of the 6 concepts above and selecting a personal goal for each item. It does not have to be lofty and you may decide to simple focus on one area at a time. Remember that all goals have short and long term components, so breaking down your goal into segments can make it more achievable.

When addressing wellness with your patient’s, refer to the “Pathways to Wellness” Program goals below.

• Maintain health and wellness of each resident
• Enhance quality of life for each resident
• Provide residents with a sense of well-being
• Enhance social support networks among residents of the facility
• Prevent debilitating effects of disease through facility-specific programs
and education

While these are the general premises that we currently provide excellent therapy services under, it is increasingly apparent that the next step is in preventing decline through proactive intervention and forward planning in regards to wellness activities. The therapy team is uniquely positioned to instruct and teach patients about wellness and prevention. We can drive this process with our clinical expertise and specialized, skilled education!