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One of the things Helen & Douglas House is known for is the respite care we provide for local terminally ill children. When the children stay with us it gives their usual carer, often their Mum and/or Dad, the chance to enjoy things that most of us take for granted. Things such as the peace of mind from round the clock care which gives them some chance to recuperate with a restful night’s sleep. But one of the highlights of coming for a stay, and notably many of the children’s favourite part of a visit, is the opportunity to use our therapeutic pool.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a form of physiotherapy which makes use of the natural buoyancy, heat and resistance of water, with therapeutic benefits. It is a fantastic way to provide a fun and engaging activity to help stimulate muscles and offers benefits to health, both physically and mentally. When a child visits, we can offer them time in the therapy pool as it is located at the hospice in Oxford. The children do not need to be able to swim as they are supervised and fully-supported by a member of the Care Team which means that most of the children who come here are able to enjoy its benefits.

Family time together in the pool

Families love our therapy pool where they can have fun with their child as a family, all-together in the warm water. This gives them the opportunity to enjoy some much needed family time and close skin-to-skin contact and cuddles, sometimes only possible with the aid of the water. For many of the children who have mobility limitations, coming to the hospice might also be the only chance for them to soak in warm water as some don’t have an accessible bath at home and rely on alternative methods to bathe. Using a local public pool can be problematic, as not all of them have hoists while their showers and changing rooms can be difficult to access.

On a recent visit to Helen & Douglas House, sister and brother, Ellen and Alex Watson from Witney, both got chance to enjoy the therapeutic pool.
When they come for stay at various points throughout the year, it gives mum Annette the chance to have a full night’s sleep, safe in the knowledge her children are being well cared for both medically and physically.

Ellie and Alex’s Mum, Annette, said ‘Helen & Douglas House has been a place for us over the years where we know that Ellen and Alex can be taken care of and enjoy the activities that are provided. The therapy pool is a favourite place for both of them, as is the bath and shower, which we do not have access to at home. They become very animated in excitement with these activities.’

‘Ellie loves the water, she gets very excited and often screams when she is about to go in. Alex also enjoys the water and kicks his legs when in the pool, this is something he is unable to do out of the water’.

The benefits of hydrotherapy

The therapeutic pool at Helen & Douglas House is essential for both physical and mental well-being and is especially important to the children who stay with us, as so many of them have limited movement. Hydrotherapy differs from swimming because it is done in a smaller specially built pool which is heated specifically to warm muscles and aid movement. During a stay, children enjoy time in the pool either with a member of the Care Team or sometimes together with their family. The water is very calming for them and reduces stress and gives them the chance to move more freely, without the resistance of gravity, whilst the warmth of the water relaxes their often tense muscles. They sometimes also have exercises to do, but this would be provided by a physiotherapist to suit the child’s needs.

On a typical session, the children spend around 20 minutes in the pool where there are multiple sensory experiences to be enjoyed, including lights, music, floats and bubbles, as well as water pistols for those with more movement. The Care Team find the physical elements of water and the enhanced sensory experience extremely beneficial to a child’s overall respite care.

Creating wonderful memories

Our comfortable hospice is here to help care for and support children, helping them to create happy family memories. Hydrotherapy certainly does go towards helping to create these happy memories as every session is tailored to suit their needs. The money that we raise through supporters, events and donations each year helps to ensure that we can continue to offer facilities like the therapy pool, as well as providing respite and end of life care.

Riley and his mummy absolutely love using Helen & Douglas House’s hydrotherapy pool. Make a donation today and help bring comfort and support to families going through every parent’s worst nightmare.

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