An Accidental Passion

When he was a senior high school student in the small town of Fernie, B.C., Jason Johnson enrolled in a work experience course, where he did a practicum at a nursing home. Up until then, he was undecided about what to do after graduation. He enjoyed the experience so much he went on to study recreation therapy. For the past six years, he’s been the Recreation Therapy Manager at Bethany Cochrane.

“I love my work—I get to work with different people all the time and I get to hear their stories,” says Jason.

About fifty percent of his time is spent organizing the recreation therapy program, and the remainder of time he is working with residents. At Bethany, activities are available for everyone based on their needs and abilities—what can they do, what do they want to do, what could they do and what should they do?

When residents first arrive at Bethany, an assessment is completed that includes a social and activity history, as well as a cognitive evaluation. Family members are an important part of the assessment—they can provide information about what their loved one likes to do, or used to do and offer suggestions on what to try.

“For many people, living in an inter-communal environment is a new experience. We find these activities help them to bond with the nurses and with other residents,” says Jason. “Bingo is always a favourite, but our residents are the best sounding board for what they enjoy.”

“Bethany Cochrane is kind of a unique facility. Cochrane has a large ranching community and we have lots of residents who were born and raised here, and have come back,” adds Jason. “Because of that, we’ve got great community involvement. We have a family council made up of residents’ family members who meet with us monthly to find out what we need.”

The family council goes out to the community to create awareness about what’s needed and helps fundraise for donations. The council has purchased items like blanket warmers, patio furniture and has even installed murals of familiar Alberta scenery throughout the building.

Recreation therapy is offered at all Bethany care centres and includes something for everyone:

  • Pet therapy
  • Seated exercise programs
  • Cognitive improvement programs
  • Country drives
  • Museum visits
  • Music therapy
  • Special events
  • Bingo
  • Bridge and other card games
  • Current events
  • Community events