Maisy Leigh at the pool

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Benefits of hydrotherapy at a children’s hospice

Anna Jones, Director of Children’s Services writes about the magic of a hydrotherapy pool in a children’s hospice – you might be surprised to find out it’s not all about swimming!

Ask families what activities they’ve enjoyed most on a visit or short break with us and splashing around in the hydrotherapy pool will often come out on top. But what is it that makes it so special? And why is the hospice often the only place they can enjoy this time together?

Public pools can be tricky

Packing a bag to spend an afternoon at a public swimming pool is something most of us take for granted. But when you’re caring for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, a family trip to the local leisure centre often isn’t an option. Many of the children we care for can’t tolerate the temperature of the water in public pools and get cold very quickly, or they may have sensory issues and find it too noisy and overwhelming. Often there aren’t hoists which mean young people in wheelchairs can’t get into the pool, and the changing rooms and showers can be too difficult to manage.

This means that for many of the children and young people we care for, the only opportunity they have to play or relax in a pool is during a visit or stay at Chestnut Tree House.

Maisy-Leigh and family in the pool at Chestnut Tree House

From our families:

We’ve always been too scared to take Maisy-Leigh to a public pool, so seeing her little face light up, and her legs kick around in the water at Chestnut is incredible.

- Hayleigh, Maisy-Leigh’s mum

Maisy-Leigh’s story

Why do we have a hydrotherapy pool in the hospice?

The hydrotherapy pool is a safe place for everyone. It’s an accessible and soothing space that everyone can enjoy, and there’s some key reasons why it’s so important for children’s hospice care:

  • It’s relaxing: One of the things that makes it so relaxing is the warm, bath-like water. The temperature is always around 33°C which helps muscles to relax; easing joints, reducing pain, and making gentle exercise much easier.
  • It’s freeing: The warm water supports the children’s bodies and for those of them who spend a lot of time in a wheelchair, or have limited mobility, they can experience an otherwise impossible sense of freedom and weightlessness.
  • It’s confidence-boosting: For other children, it might be the only place they can walk, as they’re able to take small steps on the bottom of the pool, which is hugely empowering.
  • It’s therapeutic: Or the gentle movement of the water can calm them if they are feeling anxious or agitated.
Image of mother and baby in the pool

From our families:

We all love splashing about in the pool together. It’s one of the very few times when all four of us can be together as a family, all enjoying the same thing.

- one of our families

Fun for all the family

Our specialist team make sure that as many children as possible can access the hydrotherapy pool – even if they have highly complex medical conditions or need to be on a ventilator to help with their breathing.

With at least one nurse in the water at all times, parents don’t have to worry about their child’s care needs and whole families can have fun together. For children and their siblings, to take part in an activity that all their peers are doing is a huge confidence boost for them. They love to play ball games, have fun with the floats or have water pistol fights with the staff!

For the children, parents and siblings, it’s moments like these that matter most, and the hydrotherapy pool is just one of the facilities we have that can enhance their quality of life. But most importantly, it’s a place where they can have fun, play, feel confident and splash about in a safe environment like any other family.

Creating precious memories

When we talk to families who have sadly lost their child, often the strongest memories of their time together are in the hydrotherapy pool. I can think of one mum whose baby was reaching the end of life who thought she’d never be able to swim with her. With support from a nurse, she was able to enjoy close skin-to-skin contact and cuddles in the water, and for that half an hour she could put aside her worries and focus on that precious time together.

Make a donation today to help us support families with these magical moments that they simply can’t get anywhere else.

Swimming in the hydrotherapy pool at Chestnut Tree House

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