St Vincent's Care Maroochydore expands wellness program

Posted 26th May 2023

By Anthony Rule & Ian Rattray


In October, Encara’s team of physiotherapists at St Vincent’s Care Services Maroochydore ushered in a new era of wellness with an 8-fold increase in classes available to residents and a 630% increase in attendance.  

The previous passive therapy model was replaced with a more active model focused on resident enablement, engagement, and wellness, resulting in more residents participating in exercises across all 5 floors of the facility. 

During exercise,  the body releases  endorphins, which are natural painkillers that  can also improve mood.  Additionally, exercise can increase dopamine and serotonin levels, which can help reduce depression and improve feelings of well-being.

Research on aged care facilities and the elderly has highlighted social isolation, falls, muscle atrophy, loss of function, and depression as significant challenges. With the new opportunities brought by Encara’s wellness program, the group saw an opportunity to address all of these issues.  

Exercise has been shown to be greatly beneficial not just for muscle loss and fitness but also for depression and preservation of function. 

The team centered its approach around group exercise programs, leveraging the group setting to maximize social interactions and outcomes. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which can help reduce depression and improve mood. 

According to a meta analysis of 49 studies, exercise was found to be significantly effective in reducing symptoms of depression. Another study found that engaging in regular physical activity was associated with a 22% lower risk of developing depression.

An additional benefit of the program was designed into the scheduling. Working collaboratively with nursing staff, the physio team highlighted the difficulties staff faced with transporting residents to and from activities, as well as maintaining supervision during shift handover times. The transport difficulties were solved by organizing timetables to maximize classes within each different level of the facility and minimize transport requirements. The timetabling focused on creating class times that overlapped with shift changeover times and staff meetings to engage residents in activities when supervision by care staff would otherwise be stretched. 

Group exercise programs can help reduce social isolation in the elderly by providing opportunities for social interaction and connection with others. A study found that participating in group exercise programs was associated with improvements in social functioning and social support among older adults.

In summary, the new paradigm in wellness at St Vincent’s Care Services Maroochydore has resulted in significant increases in resident participation and attendance. By focusing on resident enablement, engagement, and wellness through group exercise programs, the physio team has addressed social isolation, falls, muscle atrophy, loss of function, and depression in a comprehensive and effective way. The program also addressed the difficulties faced by nursing staff with transportation and supervision during shift handover times, making it a win-win for residents and staff alike. 

Anthony Rule (pictured left) is a Sunshine Coast based Physiotherapist with Encara who has been working at St Vincent’s Maroochydore since June 2017 and more recently at St Vincent’s Gympie. 
Outside of work hours Anthony can be found cooking Neapolitan Pizzas in his woodfired pizza oven or at his local parkrun.

Ian Rattray (pictured right) is a Sunshine Coast based Physiotherapist with Encara working out of St Vincent’s Maroochydore since September 2017. Ian's interests include American Southern Style wood fired BBQ and anything football.

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