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Chris Richard, Recreation Therapist


June 8, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

As a Recreation Therapist working on Brampton Civic’s rehab unit, Chris Richard uses recreation and leisure activities to help patients recover after an injury or stroke. Through things such as games, putting together puzzles or making crafts, patients regain physical and cognitive abilities so they can get back to doing the things they liked to do before their injury or illness.
Throughout the pandemic, Chris has been treating more patients who are working to regain strength following a lengthy hospitalization due to COVID-19.
“These are patients that require a different type of rehabilitation,” says Chris. “We're seeing a lot of frail, deconditioned patients who have been through the traumatic event of COVID-19 and I'm just trying to get them back on their feet so they can return to their families and their life again.”
Seeing patients regain their strength day by day is what Chris finds most rewarding about his work.  “When these patients come to the unit, they don't have a lot of energy. But when you see them three or four weeks later, you get to see who they really are. Their personalities come back and they tell you the story of what they've been through,” he says. “One of our patients was a patient of mine four years ago. After his COVID experience he's just grateful to be here and that we're here to help him get back to his family. That makes you want to come in every day and help the patients as much as you can.”
When no-visitor policies were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in hospital, Chris and his fellow Recreation Therapists were called upon to help provide resources and treatment to patients on units that usually don't have recreation therapy. “Without stimulation, patients, especially our older population, can start to lose cognitive ability, so to have something they can work on like a word search or crossword, even squeezing a stress ball—it provides some stimulation and helps them maintain, or even possibly increase, their cognition.”
As a small team, they had to find a creative solution that would benefit as many patients as possible with limited resources. “We came up with the idea of a Recreation & Well-being Cart that has resources on it to help patients on floors that don't have Recreation Therapy currently,” he says. “We got amazing support from Patient Experience to go ahead with the initiative and the physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) assistants stepped up to help deploy the cart. It’s been nice to see so many different team members collaborate to create a tool for patients to be successful.” 
At both Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General, carts were stocked with items like puzzle books and colouring pages, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, books, newspapers—even reading glasses for patients who need them. Response to the carts has been positive.
Chris points out that the challenges presented by the pandemic have further strengthened the focus on providing compassionate, patient-inspired care.  “Some days are difficult but we get to leave the hospital and get back to a little bit of normal each night before we come back the next day. These patients must stay here, and all they see are people behind masks—I can imagine that's quite difficult so it feels good just to be here and try to make a difference for them.”
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