The beneficial effects of swimming in paediatric palliative care
A key element at The Lighthouse Children and Families is the indoor temperature and swimming pool heated to the body's temperature. Swimming is part of the daily activities of the children who stay at the Lighthouse. Every day in the afternoon, two trained employees bring at least two children to the pool for 30 minutes.
Training at the pool
Every year, the animation team provides training to the volunteers, support workers, and attendants to increase the number of facilitators who can assist and encourage the children at the pool. This way it increases the number of new faces at the pool but also the number of swimming sessions. For instance, for children who have difficulties to fall asleep, the trained facilitators may bring them to the pool before bedtime so they can relax.
The effects of water immersion on the body
We observe several benefits of our heated pool that affect our children and adults. The deep stimulation of proprioceptive receptors helps in diminishing spasticity and pain. Furthermore, the stimulation of the afferent sensory system increases the consciousness of the body. Floatability facilitates movements and mobility, and the water resistance minimizes the risks of children falling while walking.
The hot water and bigger possibility of movements help children who are congested on the respiratory level to release secretions.
Different types of stimulations in the water
Depending on their physical capacities, diseases and cognitive levels, we best adapt our approach in the pool to the needs and interests of the children. As such, the pool offers different types of simulations. On the kinaesthetic level, the pool activities give new vestibular et proprioceptive markers, allowing different movements of the body either in the standing or sleeping position, which stimulates walking during the swim. On the tactical level, the water's viscosity acts as an element stimulating and draining tissues, as well as manually or with water jets massaging a part of the body. We also encourage children to manipulate different toys to develop or preserve their fine motor skills. On the auditory level, the pool has a particular acoustic level where we sing, play with musical toys, and benefit from the floating tubes to produce specific vibrations. On the visual level, we use contrasting colourful toys, immersible luminous objects, and a big mirror so they become aware of themselves in an aquatic environment - an environment where their body is more "free".
Swimming with the family
The family accompanies the child in the first 24 hours. We then encourage him to go to the pool, so the specialized educator can assess the child in the water, see if he already has objectives at school, learn the types of floats they can use, and exchange other relevant information related to the aquatic experience of the child. During symptoms management (when the condition of the child deteriorates) and end-of-life care stays, we also offer families the possibility to spend time with the child in this specific environment, to live the best moments until the end.
Additional interventions and complementary approaches in the swimming pool
The massotherapist and music therapist consistently participate in the swimming sessions. In the water, the massotherapist may reach and massage some children's back better for whom this type of manipulation is more delicate bedridden. Additionally, the water's temperature allows the muscles to relax, which simplifies and amplifies the benefits of the massage.
The music therapist, on the other hand, explores a new dimension in the pool on the resonance and vibrations levels, which are increased by the room and water's components.
These therapies are performed in a joint or dissociated manner, and generally create exceptional moments.
All in all...
The Lighthouse swimming pool is truly more than a respite for the children; activities are diversified and completed on the playful and therapeutic level. The benefits and diverse possibilities that the child receives, as well as fantastic moments that they can experience and share, all make it an essential place in the Lighthouse Children and Families' approach: to be able to live life to the fullest.
Writing: Jessica Lauzon (EA) et Elodie Buob (EA/TES)
Translation: Courtesy of Charlene Lee