In this St. Barnabas blog, we’re taking a dive into how aqua therapy helped a resident build back her strength and independence.

Normally, when a doctor orders hydrotherapy for patients, a person will likely end up at a rehabilitation center where they’ll use a hot tub that’s similar to a whirlpool to begin their rehab.

In many cases, the equipment is tucked away in a corner or in an empty room. To many, it feels like an afterthought.

That wasn’t the case for Mary Hesphenheide. She noticed the difference when she started her aquatic therapy at the Crystal Conservatories that’s located at the Valencia Woods of St. Barnabas Health System.

The facility is gorgeous and calming at the same time. Right under the Conservatories’ canopy of architectural beveled glass that was imported from Great Britain, is Mary who works out in a luxurious full-sized pool that’s kept at a warm temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

When one-on-one therapy is underway, the pool is closed for privacy.

“It is absolutely gorgeous,” exclaims Karen Juiano, MA CCC-SLP, assistant director of rehabilitation services at St. Barnabas Health System. “In my many years of experience in the field of rehabilitative therapy, I’ve never seen anything at any rehab center or retirement community that comes close to the beauty of the Crystal Conservatories’ pool. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people in the area are aware that in addition to our aqua therapy program, our pool is a free amenity to all residents within St. Barnabas and also available to the public year-round for recreation, birthday parties, and special occasions. We have a lot to offer and want people in the North Hills and Butler County areas to know that we are here for all kinds of purposes.”

Mary’s experience began in the summer of 2016. Her daughter, Jackie Lee, was beginning to worry about her mother’s ability to continue living on her own in Florida.

For many, making decisions that involve their elderly loved one can be challenging.

Jackie experienced these feelings when she decided to bring her mother closer to Pittsburgh after having lived in Florida for many, many years.

The only problem was that Jackie already had a full house with her son and daughter-in-law as well as their children living with her.

With a full house, Jackie began to explore her options.

She also realized that her 83 year-old mom could benefit from a nursing facility where she could receive physical, occupational, speech and aqua therapies to build her strength and increase her ability to remain as independent as possible.

With all of this in mind, Jackie wanted to find a place where she could have peace of mind knowing that her mom was in good hands. Luckily, one of Mary’s granddaughters, Nicole, had the perfect solution.

Before Nicole moved out of the area, she had worked at St. Barnabas and thought that the empathetic and kind staff as well as their emphasis on hospitality and superb care, services and amenities would be a perfect fit for Mary.

She was right.

In July 2016, Mary moved into the nursing home at Valencia Woods of St. Barnabas and couldn’t be happier.

After living in Florida for decades, Mary became accustomed to the southern hospitality which she feels has translated to the caring team of professionals at St. Barnabas.

“The people here are wonderful!” says Mary, a sweet and charming woman whose family means the world to her. “The therapists and nurses… all of the people here are so helpful and friendly, and they are very patient with me. And, the food is wonderful! I eat everything they put in front of me.”

While eating a healthy, balanced diet is part of the equation for building and maintaining strength, Mary also says that keeping her strength up has allowed her to get the most benefit out of her treatments. She especially loves the therapy sessions that are done at the pool.

“I look forward to coming here,” says the upbeat grandmother of seven children and great grandmother of 12. “Aqua therapy helps with my back and knee pain, and I do a lot of range of motion exercises to help with my balance, strength, and endurance. The therapists are just great!”

At St. Barnabas Health System, several skilled, experienced professionals are specially trained in aqua therapy. In Mary’s case, her therapist is using water resistance inherent to pool therapy to combat chronic pain that started years ago after she suffered an accident at work. Being in the pool helps to reduce pressure on her joints and strengthens her back, abdominal, and hip muscles, and also makes it easier and less painful for her to perform her exercises.

“Pain control is one of the many reasons we use aqua therapy,” Karen explains. “If we are able to reduce pain, improved independence is noted as well as improved quality of life. Aqua therapy also has great value in improving core strength and balance and helps decrease the risk of falls.”

So far, in only one month, Mary has made very good progress and has impressed her therapists with her determination to succeed.

“I want to stay young in mind and strong in body for my grandchildren and great grandchildren,” Mary declares with just the perfect amount of pride and joy. “That’s one thing that keeps me going.”

Once Mary is discharged from aqua therapy, she can continue to use the pool, as it is one of the many amenities available to St. Barnabas Health System residents, as well as people from the surrounding communities. That suits Mary just fine. She likes the water and warmth of the pool, which she says will be especially welcomed as temperatures fall.

If you’d like to learn more about the St. Barnabas Healthy System Community and its many amenities, contact us today!

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