The purpose of the New Hampshire Veterans Home Resident Council is:
Resident Council meetings take place on the third Thursday of each month starting at 2:00 p.m. in the Tarr Dining Room and although the officers plan an agenda, it is flexible and the residents are always invited to express their opinions on any subject. The officers of the Resident Council include President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Chaplain, and Sergeant at Arms. The Officers are nominated and elected by their peers for one year terms. Resident Council Officers work with our Social Work staff to implement as many recommendations as we can. This body has been instrumental in advocating for meaningful changes which impact the Quality of Life at NH Veterans Home.
Residents are also represented in many decision-making committees: Board of Managers, Safety Committee, Leadership Team, Art Committee, and Palliative Care Committee.
We have a very well-organized and staffed Recreation Therapy program which is founded on the belief that recreation therapy should be individualized to each person: their past, present, and future interests and lifestyles. We have residents who do creative writing, photography, watercolor painting, design and sell holiday cards. We get to know our residents and try to learn what really interests them (not us!). We help them use their leisure time in ways that enhance their health, independence, and well-being.
We offer many small and large group activities, scheduled throughout the day, in the evening, and on weekends. These activities give residents a chance to socialize with each other and often learn something new. Residents have told us "if someone is bored here, it's their own fault because there is so much to do!"
According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association, the purpose of recreation therapy is: "to restore, remediate, or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence as well as reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability". One of our measures of success is the smile we see on a resident's face.
A smile indicates positive emotions: joy, interest, and contentment. Our Recreation Therapy programs are individualized to each person and are part of their "I" Care Plan. One resident may say, "I would like to play cribbage every day." Another resident might want to learn digital photography, go to a Red Sox baseball game, put jigsaw puzzles together, go fishing, or write a book. The possibilities are as unique as the residents and when we can help them achieve a goal, our payback is their smile.
At NHVH we work diligently to create positive, meaningful programs for all of our residents-at every stage of life–whether they are ambulatory and cognitively aware or in the end stages of dementia. We know we can reach people where they are, and we make a difference in their quality of life. We don't always see a smile-maybe it's a connection that lasts just a split second, but it's there.
Compassionate Touch is therapeutic one-on-one focused attention and comfort touch. It provides residents with comfort care to soothe physical discomfort, provide reassurance, and help relieve anxiety and depression. Compassionate Touch and regular one-on-one visits provide a means of establishing trust and connection and increases an overall sense of well-being.
Helping the veterans gain new knowledge and/or skills so that they are empowered to make choices and participate in leisure activities their own choosing. The end result is that the participant has adequate skill and resources to participate as independently as possible in a variety of personally satisfying leisure pursuits. Leisure Education is also used to assist individuals with time management, stress management, and substance abuse issues in order to facilitate healthy lifestyles.
Pain Management, Relaxation, and Stress Management
Through the use of music, the "Snoezelen" Projector, and Fiber Optic Light Sprays, individuals are offered a wealth of multi-sensory options to benefit tactile, auditory, and visual feedback. Clear images with low ambient light conditions project scenes of nature: ocean, woods, coral reefs and tropical fish, dogs, cats, and beaches onto a screen which provide comfort and peace. These combined with aroma therapy (when appropriate) will decrease patient anxiety and sedative dependence and teach relaxation techniques. Guided imagery is also provided to assist individuals in relaxation techniques to enhance their understanding of developing an invisible armor to cope with everyday challenges.
Pet and Equine Therapy
Volunteers bring in their trained Pet Therapy dogs to visit the veterans in both the recreation room and their own rooms. The dogs work their magic visiting veterans. The veterans have amazing responses when they receive the unconditional love and acceptance from these animals.
The Recreation Therapy department offers Equine Therapy outings for residents to go into the community and visit with horses. During these outings residents may groom, pet, feed, and spend time with horses and a miniature pony, with a wheelchair-accessible terrain. Some benefits of Equine Therapy are: increased cognitive activity, sensory integration, independence and social skills, emotional stability, self esteem, vocalization, and improved mood. Their life skills are positively impacted; their quality of life and leisure satisfaction are enhanced.
We support individuals in their creative expression. We have a Writers Group that meets every week; an art studio group that meets several times a week. We have helped individual residents learn digital photography and edit a book-length manuscript. We publish "Veterans' Voices", a magazine that features art, writing, and photography by residents. We have created two art galleries and regularly have one-person shows which feature the work of our residents.
Laughter can enhance a person's quality of life; it can stimulate the circulatory system, the immune system, and result in a sense of well-being. Because it releases endorphins, it can provide some pain relief, encourage relaxation, and reduce stress. The physical effects of laughter on the body include increased breathing, more oxygen use, and higher heart rate.
"Smile Awhile", our Humor Therapy Program has a positive impact on behaviors such as coping, fears, adjustment, anger, frustration, apathy, and depression. Even if we get just a little smile from a resident we have achieved our goal. Recently we got a room full of smiles by showing videos of Red Skelton's popular variety show, which featured his mime of a an elderly gentleman watching a military parade. Residents are encouraged to share their jokes with others, which always gets a laugh. Norman Cousins was right: laughter may indeed be the best medicine.
Research has shown that there are many musical centers in the human brain, so even if part of the brain is damaged by disease or injury, other parts can still respond to music. Music from a resident's teenage years or wedding day can evoke strong positive emotions; these emotions help people grow, become energized for positive action, solve problems, improve the quality of relationships, and increase one's sense of emotional well-being.
At the New Hampshire Veterans Home we provide ample opportunities for residents to enjoy music–especially their favorite tunes. Professional entertainers are featured monthly, and seasonal dances always bring out the best in both residents and staff. Dancing is encouraged, and is always accompanied by enthusiastic toe-tapping or hand clapping. Informal "neighborhood" musical performances are also popular at NHVH, and residents look forward to programs such as the NHVH Jug Band.
Community outings are a key component of Recreation Therapy at the New Hampshire Veterans Home. The residents enjoy trips to local attractions and picnic areas, spend the day in a waterfront cottage at Weirs Beach, or munch on "peanuts and Cracker Jacks" while cheering on the Fisher Cats baseball team in Manchester.
We also provide special "in house" events to replicate the friendly atmosphere of a small town. During the holiday season there are many theme parties, intergenerational sing-a-longs and much more. As with all Therapeutic Recreation Programs, we encourage family involvement to enhance our residents' experience.
Recounting "days gone by" is another form of Recreation Therapy. It is a valuable tool for stimulating group discussion and creating a sense of community. With the use of visual, auditory, and tactile props, group discussions take on a life of their own. Suddenly, a room of people who were quietly watching television interact with each other: laughing, talking, and waving outstretched hands–eager to top a memory just shared.
Residents look forward to the "Culinary Creations" program as they generate home cooking for all to share. The aroma of fresh baked muffins or homemade bread serves as an excellent appetite enhancer and provides the opportunity for residents to develop new leisure skills. The cooking group takes place in the morning with a theme plate that goes along with the Chair Travel group. During Chair Travel, a group of residents will talk about the particular place, watch a film related to the place and, during this group, the residents will enjoy what they cooked earlier in the day. One veteran commented, "I can't believe I waited until I was 86 to learn how to cook. This is delicious!"
Fishing at the NHVH Pond
The NHVH pond is stocked with trout, and besides being a tranquil place to enjoy a lazy summer afternoon, it can often generate a lot of excitement for our residents. Being outdoors in the fresh air and retelling stories of "the one that got away" can be as much fun as actually catching a fish!
Table and Floor Games
Table and floor games increase and maintain physical wellness; they boost morale and enhance community spirit. The programs include volleyball, mini-golf and bowling, (all available in an adapted structure to better suit individuals in wheelchairs), "Arizona Horseshoes", Tally Loop, traditional horseshoes, and penny pitch.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Regular exercise and physical activity can improve mood, combat stress, help manage weight, strengthen the heart and lungs, promote better sleep, improve circulation, and more. Recreation Therapy is designed to help the whole person–body, mind, and spirit. At NHVH, residents are invited to participate in low impact, simple exercise programs that also give them a chance to socialize with volunteers and their fellow residents.
Watching a seed grow into a plant, complete with fruit or flowers, or digging a carrot from the warm summer earth are rewarding experiences. At the Veterans Home our residents have ample opportunities for gardening: planting seeds in spring, making fresh flower arrangements, weeding the wheelchair-accessible outdoor gardens, and harvesting the vegetables they lovingly care for.
When patients with severe or advanced dementia are not involved in an activity, they may sit around the periphery of a room staring into space. It's very difficult for them to initiate interaction. Their lack of connectedness is obvious. The goal of a sensory stimulation program is to promote interaction.
Using props, sensory stimulation improves functioning and "connectedness" with the world. That connectedness may be as simple as reaching for a cookie, leaning toward a person who is speaking, smiling, or making eye contact with another person. Occasionally we might see a more dramatic result, such as someone who has been mute beginning to speak in the group. Sensory programming is especially important in the Life Enhancement Dementia Unit (LEDU).
Our LEDU Recreation Therapy staff create multi-sensory theme presentations. One example might be train travel, which is very familiar to the veterans of World War II. A big photo of a steam locomotive or a caboose can be combined with a scale model of a train that people can touch, and then sound effects from a real train are added. Another type of a "memory box" can elicit recollections of a day at the beach. Hawaiian music, pictures of fish, real sand, shells, suntan lotion, and pieces of coral create positive emotions, which help people feel more satisfied, more engaged in life, have higher hopes, and even laugh and smile more.
Through sensory stimulation, a resident can feel more comfortable, confident, and safe. They can reminisce and return to a time of security. For a short time, they can become who they were–and it's very rewarding to be able to help them achieve that state of mind.
New Hampshire Veterans Home
139 Winter Street | Tilton, NH 03276-5415 |
(p) 603-527-4400 | (f) 603-286-4242