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White linen tables, floral centrepieces, and the aroma of hot, delicious food fill the air as the room is abuzz in anticipation and excitement.
No, this isn't Toronto's newest dining hot-spot. It's Toronto Rehab's Bickle Centre auditorium. Every month, Complex Continuing Care patients are invited to enjoy a gourmet meal with their fellow patients.
"I make sure to come out to this event every time," says Jake Hamonen, one of the many patients in the room. "I always look forward to getting out of my unit and digging into all the fun food."
Wellness Partner Anna Leung says the fine dining event is "special."
"It offers patients a fun and safe dining experience, which they otherwise wouldn't be able to participate in," she says.
This is especially important at Bickle, where the average length of a patient's stay can be extended.
Here, staff provide care to patients with complex medical needs, help them recover their strength and mobility, and restore their maximum level of independence.
Events like these bring a sense of normalcy to a patient's experience by enabling them to socialize outside of their unit, in a new environment, over a meal that they wouldn't typically get to enjoy in a hospital setting.
"Through our programs, patients rediscover activities that interest them"
The fine dining event is just one example of the breadth of activities organized by the Bickle's Wellness Partners, a team that is unique to Bickle. Their aim is to help patients enhance their quality of life, practice autonomy, and rediscover the leisure and wellness activities that to lead fulfilling lives.
"We find out what interests our patients and create fun recreational programs that they would participate in if they were out in the community," Anna says.
Programs offered by the Wellness Partners fall into a number of categories: active, such as fitness and crafting; passive, such as nails on-the-go, music video hour, and movie night; and special events, such as fine dining.
"Our goal is to integrate our patients into a variety of programs that raise their spirits and improve their quality of life," says Anna.
"Through our programs, patients rediscover activities that interest them."
Jake, for example, is a music fan.
"Once a week, a few of us come out and choose songs that we love and want to share with the group," he says. "I've introduced them to [the classical vocal group] Il Divo, and they've become quite popular."
"Programs aimed at recreation create a balance for our patients"
The Wellness Partner program compliments the nursing, medical and therapy care provided to patients, says Paula Cripps-McMartin, Clinical Director, Bickle Centre.
"Having specific activities and programs aimed at recreation creates a balance for our patients. It reminds them that there is more to Bickle than just the medical aspect of their condition but also the emotional and social aspects which are equally as important," she says.
It may be the patients who benefit from the activities, but it's rewarding for the Wellness Partners, too.
"It makes me feel good to be able to help patients continue pursuing their recreational interests, despite their acquired limitations and complexity of their medical status," Anna says.