​​​​Danielle Coughlin and Willie Si, Therapeutic Recreationists
Danielle Coughlin and Willie Si, Therapeutic Recreationists on Toronto Rehab’s Geriatric Psychiatry Unit, lead a team of 14 talented volunteers who come with big smiles, ready to brighten patients’ days. (Photo: Toronto Rehab Volunteer Resources)

"I have learned so much in my time volunteering with Danielle and Willie. They make the important tasks of upholding a patient's dignity, showing respect, and showing compassion seem effortless."

"Danielle and Willie are great role models and I am grateful I have the pleasure to work with them."

"I have been volunteering at Toronto Rehab with Willie and Danielle for almost two years. They encourage volunteers to bring forward ideas on how to enrich the therapeutic program."

--Quotes from Geriatric Psychiatry Volunteers at Toronto Rehab, University Centre

Willie Si and Danielle Coughlin, Therapeutic Recreationists on Toronto Rehab's Geriatric Psychiatry Unit, are making their mark as Volunteer Supervisors and respected mentors at UHN.

UHNews caught up with Si and Coughlin in honour of National Volunteer Week coming up April 6-12.

UHNews: What does a therapeutic recreationist do?

Si and Coughlin: Recreation Therapy helps individuals achieve quality of life and optimal health through meaningful experiences in recreation and leisure.

We conduct assessments of our patients leisure needs, interests and abilities. We plan and implement structured activities for our patients in a group or one-on-one setting, evaluating the impact of our interventions and patient satisfaction through observation and adapting the activity as necessary.

Upon discharge, we provide a leisure care plan for the facility receiving the patient, and share our strategies and care tips with the patient's family and immediate caregivers.

UHNews: Can you tell me about your unit and the patients you treat?

Si and Coughlin: The Geriatric Psychiatry Unit is an inpatient behavioural assessment unit that works with patients with responsive behaviours associated with various types of dementia. We receive patients who can be aggressive and unpredictable, so our volunteers require special training to handle difficult situations. Our patients are elderly and mostly living in long-term care homes.

UHNews: You currently have 14 volunteers on your unit throughout the week.  What value do these volunteers bring to your unit?

Si and Coughlin: Therapeutic Recreation volunteers support a number of activities, including: tea social, creative group, music groups, spa/relaxation hour, reading circle, creative storytelling, ball toss, pet therapy, and music performance (piano, guitar, voice and flute).

Volunteers are an integral support system, helping us facilitate these therapeutic recreation groups. Often times, we need a higher staff/volunteer to patient ratio than other patient groups due to behavioural and safety concerns. Our volunteers add value to our patients by assisting them in any way they can, and engaging them in meaningful conversation, providing emotional support, and helping patients to participate fully in groups.

UHNews: How do patients feel about the volunteers on your unit?

Si and Coughlin: Our patients and families always appreciate volunteer support. Many are surprised to learn that our musical performers are all volunteers. Families are always amazed by their talent and dedication. Our Toronto Rehab support volunteers always come with big smiles, ready to brighten our patients' day.

UHNews: When you're not working on the Geriatric Psychiatry Unit, what might you be doing?

Si: I recently got married, so my life has been consumed with wedding planning! Now that the wedding is over, I am very happy to be able to set aside all the crafting and wedding blogs.

I enjoy working out at the gym to keep my energy levels up. I love spending time with my husband, our cat and new puppy. I never turn town the chance to try out a new restaurant with family and friends. I enjoy sunny cruises and would like to expand my travel repertoire to Europe and Australia in the next couple of years.

Coughlin: I am always on the look-out for fun new things to try around the city! I love seeing shows and concerts, eating interesting vegetarian food, speed-walking, and shopping. I'm also a big fan of travel, costume parties, reading, cooking, warm weather and having laughs with friends.

National Volunteer Week is April 6-12, 2014. Have you thanked a volunteer today? As part of this year's Volunteer Week, you can call the Volunt-Hear Hotline at 1-855-373-5077 between March 23 and April 12 to thank a volunteer. To learn more about National Volunteer Week, click here​.

Follow Toronto Rehab Volunteer Resources on Twitter and Facebook:
@TRIvolunteering -- suggested hashtags for National Volunteer Week: #TRINVW and #UHNNVW.

Special thanks to Misty Lavoie, Program Coordinator, Volunteer Resources, Toronto Rehab for submitting this story.

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