Adding value through aquatic therapy

Bob Bowles
Bob Bowles

“Why should we choose your nursing center over another one?” It's the question that every administrator needs to be able to confidently answer. Yet many executives of senior facilities don't have a ready answer as to their value-added differentiators. 

Years ago, Saluda Nursing Center in South Carolina felt that we needed to make sure we never got stuck when it came to answering this inquiry, so we set about to add some things that we knew would set us apart, including a high-tech pool.

What's so special about a pool?  It's not an ordinary swimming pool, but a warm-water therapy pool with a variable-depth floor and underwater treadmill. There are high-powered resistance jets that double as massage hose hook-ups.

It wasn't an insignificant investment, but it turned out to be one of the unique selling points that we feel has turned us into a marketplace leader. Being able to tell someone, “Yes, you can get physical therapy elsewhere, but you can only get warm-water hydrotherapy and exercise at Saluda Nursing Center,” makes an enormous influence on potential clients and referrers.  

The therapy pool has had a significant impact in many ways for us and the people we serve:

  • It has allowed individuals to leave the nursing center and return home faster than they might have before. As we all know, this is a huge desire for older adults who are facing the possibility of a long stay in a senior living facility. Being able to help them gain strength, balance and mobility earlier leaves them able to go back to their residences safely in an earlier timeframe. They love that, and our team members enjoy seeing their excitement at the progress they can make.

  • Residents and non-residents who need aquatic therapy can see their progress. Our therapy pool has a component that allows us to hook up an underwater camera and display the live video on a screen. When someone is in the pool, he or she can see their movement in real-time. It makes physical therapy come alive, especially as people begin to make adjustments on their own and take a very proactive approach to their rehabilitation.

  • We can help practically anyone, of any age, and of any ability. For some individuals, land therapy is just too difficult or impossible because of physical issues. Water therapy, on the other hand, is much more forgiving. Even people who are dependent on wheelchairs or other assistive devices can feel confident in the therapy pool where their weight is offset by the buoyancy of the water. Additionally, the warmth just feels good.

  • Clients can actually run – yes, run – again.  Have you ever seen an octogenarian jogging on an underwater treadmill without any kind of discomfort or fatigue? It's a powerful sight. Not only does it enable seniors to stay fit and active, but it makes them feel psychologically better. Never underestimate the mental component when it comes to boosting the perceived attractiveness of your nursing facility.  If someone knows that they are coming here to honestly get well and have a significant quality of life, that's a huge plus.

  • We can help patients who are younger in advanced ways. Our community is known for helping patients 50 years and older, but we sometimes see younger patients who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, or orthopedic injuries. Since the addition of our therapy pool, our volume of younger outpatients has increased dramatically. The youngest patient we have treated was a 14-year-old with a baseball injury, a standard orthopedic patient who might not have been referred to Saluda if we hadn't had an advanced pool. We are 30 to 45 minutes from the nearest college, but the college students with injuries have started to come our way. There's a reason for that, and it's our reputation for aquatic therapy.

  • Our therapists have more ways to treat patients. Physical therapists can never have too many arrows in their quivers, so to speak! By offering a therapy pool, we're providing them with a new way to make their job more effective. Those who have never worked in hydrotherapy before are often surprised at how much they have to learn, and we're eager to help them develop their skills.

What will you say the next time someone asks you to highlight the differentiators at your facility? If you don't already have a strong value-added component, we highly suggest looking into the modality of aquatic therapy.

Bob Bowles is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has been the administrator for Saluda Nursing & Rehab center for over 45 years. Diana Perez, PRT, DPT, works for Evergreen Rehab. Both Bob and Diana are passionate advocates for quality patient care and work to provide Saluda's senior population the absolute best in quality care.


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