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Monday, March 14, 2016

BUILDING STRENGTH

Holy Angels program promotes wellness for residents

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Holy Angels program promotes wellness for residents

Exercise physiologist Jason Thomas is a new health-care professional at Holy Angels Residential Facility working to help follow the nonprofit’s mission to provide a healthy lifestyle to their residents.

“When you talk about the six dimensions of wellness, the physical is only one of them,” Thomas said. “There are also emotional, occupational, spiritual, intellectual and social. We want to make sure we target all of them.”

Thomas said most people with disabilities are prone to a sedentary lifestyle.

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability is focused on examining health disparities among adults with disabilities and is trying to help them achieve health benefits through increased participation in physical and social activities. Research indicates the number of disabled individuals is on the rise and that those individuals face a variety of barriers to health promotion and disease prevention programming in comparison to individuals without disabilities.

Thomas has been working to establish an exercise wellness program that is inclusive of every person receiving care at Holy Angels, no matter how limited physically they might be. “Basically, what we’ve been lacking is inclusive equipment,” he said. “Most of the stuff we had was recreation-based that was really geared toward those that were more physically and cognitively capable, and left those with more limitations out to the side. Even those who are fairly high-functioning still have physical limitations that will prevent them from exercising at a rate that will have health benefits. They’re not able to walk fast enough to get the cardiovascular speed we need.”

Plans include acquiring some specially designed units from SCIFIT, a company that makes an entirely inclusive line for individuals with disabilities.

“SCIFIT color-codes the parts based on moving and stationary parts so that individuals know which ones to grab,” Thomas said.

“The seats swivel and pivot and have trainer assist so that we can adjust them easily. The SCIFIT total body trainers have leg stabilizers and grip assist for those that can’t grasp the handles. They are just made to deal with all the situations we’re dealing with, even for our cerebral palsy patients. If the legs aren’t capable of doing a lot of the work, the arms can help with some of the range of motion training. It really affords us a much more inclusive environment.”

Thomas said Holy Angels is looking for financial support to help with his exercise program. “We want to balance that so we’re looking at trying to find grant funding and private support to get the equipment we need, to the tune of about $50,000. The residents come and see me about 16-20 at a time. I’d really like to have stations so I can get people on the equipment for an extended period and not have to rotate them out as much. Total body trainers are about $7,000 apiece. StepOnes are recumbent steppers, and they’re just under $6,000 apiece.

“What it comes down to is that this is just another big issue Americans with disabilities face,” Thomas said. “Even outside of Holy Angels, there are not a lot of places that are not fully [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant. It may be based on space, but they don’t have the equipment that is really designed to allow individuals with disabilities to exercise the way you and I exercise when we go to the gym. You and I can go jump on just about any machine we want. It doesn’t work that way for them. They require more specialized equipment. And anytime you have the words ‘special’ or ‘inclusive,’ the price tag goes up as well.”

Thomas said the wellness program primarily focuses on building strength. “Most of our residents don’t have a normal gait,” Thomas said, “and there are issues with balance as we age, due to loss of lean body mass. The steps start to shorten and we start to shuffle the feet. That’s when we trip and fall. The stronger we can get them with the restoration of some of the lean body mass, the more function we can restore and limit injury.”

–Susan Reeks

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