In the week leading up to International Women's Day — this Sunday, March 8 — we're highlighting just a few of the thousands of incredible women who help us deliver exceptional care at Vancouver Coastal Health. Check back every day this week to meet them all.
Though many people have heard of recreation therapy, very few know what it actually entails, says Cyndi Dallow, Recreation Therapist at Banfield Pavilion.
“I often find myself explaining what I do when I meet new people," she says. In her role working with frail seniors and adults with complex health-care needs, she creates leisure, recreation and social opportunities to help improve their quality of life.
“I like to say we're leaders of the happiness department." For Dallow, the title seems to fit – the co-workers who put her name forward for the International Women's Day feature say she brings a wonderful energy to work, and is always positive.
Though on the surface it might look like recreation therapy is just about having fun, Dallow says there's much more to it. As in other allied health professions, recreation therapists do an assessment with the client group, which may include family and physicians. “We try to determine who they are as a person, what brings them joy, what gives their life meaning. Then we give them opportunities to do those things." At Banfield, it can range from group art or physical activities, movie showings, or horticulture therapy, to one-to-one sessions that include cognitive or sensory stimulation, or support for spiritual practices. Every activity is assessed and evaluated as part of a care plan.
Dallow enrolled in her therapeutic recreation program in the early '90s after realizing that she didn't want a desk job, needed a lot of variety in her work, and enjoyed physical activity. She spent most of her career working in community mental health and substance use programs, but moved to long-term care last May. It's different every day, and she loves it.
To others considering a role in recreation therapy, Dallow says “Go for it. There are lots of opportunities in this field and it's an amazing job, with a lot of support." If you do, like her, you be able to say you “put the 'fun' in function!"