RI Veteran Gets in the Pool for Bariatric Physical Therapy

Meet John, a war veteran and community member at Rhode Island Veterans Home. Looking to improve his health and mobility, John was ready for a new physical therapy challenge.

Next, meet Lauren Tavares, clinical manager at Rhode Island Veterans Home and a passionate LSVT certified therapist. Lauren knew using the facility’s SwimEx Triton would benefit John. But she also knew the team of physical therapists from Bay State Physical Therapy would need to start slowly. Now, thanks to everyone’s commitment and hard work, they are experiencing rehab success.

Progress at the patient’s comfort level

John was fearful of the water, but Lauren knew the pool would help with his rehab. “He had a near-death experience with water,” Lauren said. “I knew the team would need to start slow and encourage him along the way.”

John’s physical therapists first introduced him to the pool simply by bringing him into the pool room and turning on the current. “Even this small step for John induced some anxiety, but it was a good first step,” Lauren said.

After getting comfortable with being around the pool, the team slowly lowered John into the pool so he could dip his toes in the water. “Our facility has the Aqua Creek Pro pool lift, which is great for someone like John,” Lauren said. “I’ve always believed that it’s important to progress at a pace that’s comfortable for the patient. Encouragement is key. Helping him fight through his fears and getting comfortable in the water was our main goal at the start.”

Together the team progressed to having John stand in the water. “The water takes the pressure off his joints and alleviates discomfort,” Lauren said. At each stage of progress, his team of physical therapists were there with encouraging support. “I remind all of my patients that they just have to try. We’re not striving for perfection. I find it helps to share the bigger picture, including explaining how aquatic therapy can support their progress. The pool is ideal for exercise and improving functional mobility.”

Floating, kicking, jumping, and walking

As seen in the videos, John is now floating, kicking, jumping, and walking in the pool. “He started with 10-15 minute sessions, and now he is up to 45 minutes,” Lauren said. “It is so great to see the progress he’s made, especially fighting his fear of the water. We are working on getting him to improve functional mobility. Our overall goal is to get him walking on land again.”

Giving veterans independence

Lauren sees a lot of opportunities for using the pool. “We have a lot of veterans with Parkinson’s disease and community members with osteoarthritis,” Lauren said. “When families and residents visit the facility, they are always impressed that we have the pool here. They see the pool as fun, and community members are excited to use the pool for exercise or rehab. Even though many of the veterans we see are struggling with health issues, they want as much independence as possible, and aquatic therapy helps build that independence.”

To say Lauren is passionate about working with veterans is an understatement. “I think this is the best place in the world,” she said. “I’ve worked with veterans who have fought in WW2, the Korean War, and Vietnam. They have sacrificed so much for us. I love helping them in any way I can.”

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