Ideal Wellness Center for MS
I’ve been talking to a person investigating the ‘construction’ of a standalone wellness center intended to serve people with neurological disorders, especially people like me with multiple sclerosis. A point I make over and over to the point I am sure he is tired of hearing is before they do anything, they should actually talk to the people who are expected to use it. You can build the most spectacular setting for wellness, but if the program doesn’t resonate with the people who are expected to show up there, it will likely be a failure.
So what would a center for wellness in MS or other chronic diseases look like? And what type of programs should be the focus? Here is my wish list and I would love to know what you think I have left out….
It would be a separate building and not part of a clinic or a medical setting. It needs to be independent to be a welcoming environment, and with lots of easy parking.
I think there are four areas of physical conditioning that are at the core of our needs – we need strength training, work on flexibility, cardio endurance to get our heats pumping, and balance. Yes, we can get those workouts at any commercial gym, but those places are not always suitable for people like you and me who need a bit more time, space, patience and encouragement. So we need a well-equipped space.
In addition to the traditional physical workouts, I would like to see any MS wellness center include the space for opportunities for yoga, tai chi, kickboxing and the other training classes that have been shown to improve our health. Studies show the benefits of these techniques, but they remain out of the reach of most people with MS because they are not offered by people trained in neurological disorders and they can also involve significant costs.
Then there is wellness for the body that doesn’t involve sweating it out but rather being still and learning. I would include opportunities for nutrition counseling, and plenty of group meeting times to address assorted topics of interest.
A wellness center could also offer seminar classes in areas that give us the chance to grow, such as a creative writing course in how to journal, which we know is a healthy outlet for our thoughts. They might also offer short courses on how to turn those journal entries into blogs by bringing in a computer savvy person to explain how a blog is set up on the internet. Or it might be something less technical like holding a learn to knit class, which can turn into a great social outlet. Getting people out of their homes and immersed in activities that are of interest to them is a great wellness tool.
At the center of my ideal wellness center I would have a swimming pool, which I know is a huge expense, but it is also one of the most beneficial activities people with MS can do. If there is a commitment to wellness, it needs to be all the way and the pool is essential. There could be classes that incorporate all of the points I made at the beginning of this about strength, cardio, balance and flexibility training, because a pool is the ideal environment for these workouts. There would also be open swim time, so people could come at their own schedule to just use the pool.
Key to people using a wellness center is it needs to be open beyond the usual business hours of our medical world, and evening and weekend access is essential. The building needs to be accessible (as in a great location to get to), and inviting. I see the need to build a wellness center that becomes a place people with MS are comfortable with stopping by, spending time with others and turns into ‘the place to be’ as a hangout for all of us. The time needed to build this sense of community might be longer than the planners want to wait, but it would be worth the effort.
I have no idea what this would cost, nor is the budget my concern. I was just challenged to envision what a wellness center might look like, and these are my ideas. What do you think? Would you use a place like this and what have I left out?
Wishing you well,