"Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" at area nursing homes

Creator and leader ... Physical therapy assistant Jessica Wilkins (right) stands with Good Samaritan Society of Waukon resident Peggy Schneider during her "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" therapy session. Wilkins first thought of the program being utilized at Good Samaritan Society and Northgate Care Center in Waukon and at Thornton Manor in Lansing, while Schneider has really embraced the program, and benefited from it, having nearly completed the entire RAGBRAI route. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Charting their "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" progress ... The RAGBRAI® route map that hangs on the wall at the Good Samaritan Society in Waukon keeps track of the progress for the nursing home's residents during their "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" program. Residents at Good Samaritan Society and Northgate Care Center in Waukon, as well as at Thornton Manor in Lansing, are all taking part in the program under the guidance of RehabVisions therapy staff and employees at each facility. The program uses the anticipation of the local arrival of RAGBRAI in late July as motivation for resident health and wellness. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Actually rode RAGBRAI ... Physical therapy assistant Jessica Wilkins (right) sits with Good Samaritan Society of Waukon resident Richard Gearhart, who participates in the "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" program created by Wilkins. Gearhart took part in the actual RAGBRAI ride itself back in 1985, and he says he likes the motivation of the "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" program. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Accomplishment and enjoying the ride ... Physical therapist Tara McMullen (left) stands with Northgate Care Center resident Tom Collins during his "Residents Ride RAGBRAI®" therapy session. Collins says he enjoys keeping track of the different places along the route and the accomplishment of being able to participate in the ride. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Area therapists incorporate anticipation of annual bike ride arriving in late July into motivation for local health and wellness programs

by Julie Berg-Raymond

RAGBRAI® won’t be rolling through Allamakee County until late July; but for residents at three area nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the ride has been going on since early June.

The brainchild of physical therapy assistant Jessica Wilkins, “Residents Ride RAGBRAI” is a therapy program that mimics the official RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) route and the accumulation of miles toward completion of the ride. Physical therapists at Good Samaritan Society and Northgate Care Center in Waukon, and at Thornton Manor in Lansing, are working with residents at all three facilities on this program.

“In therapy the patients will joke about where they are ‘riding’ to,” Wilkins says. “A few years ago when RAGBRAI was closer to our area I thought it would be neat to have it set up for them to ride the RAGBRAI route and have them involved. Once the route was announced for 2017, I knew I needed to make sure it happened this year.”

To implement the idea, Wilkins used one of the official RAGBRAI maps, which she took to the Copy Shoppe in Waukon and had enlarged and laminated to accommodate the size needed to move the bikes along the route. She typed up the town-to-town miles per day to post on the map to arrive at a more accurate “guesstimate” of where to place the bikes on the map, as the residents took on more miles along the route.

“We wanted to make sure we made this all-inclusive - so that if someone was unable to walk or ride a bike they could do something with their arms to count for ‘miles,’” Wilkins said. For participants who can’t “ride” floor bikes and stepping machines or walk, arm bikes "pedaled" with an individual's arms instead of legs are used to log miles.

Each resident who completes RAGBRAI will get a finisher’s medal and be recognized for their achievement. RehabVisions out of Omaha, NE employs all the therapists working in the “Residents Ride RAGBRAI” program, and is purchasing all medals for all facilities.

Wilkins says she is happy with the way the program is working. “I’ve noticed that people are excited to come to therapy. They ask us, ‘where is my bike? How many miles did I go today? Where will you move my bike to?’. It has been so motivational for many people.”

At Good Samaritan Society in Waukon, more than 30 residents are involved in the program. “It varies due to new people arriving at the facility or people leaving the facility,” Wilkins said.

Peggy Schneider uses a floor bike, which she rides three times per week. Walking counts in the program, too - and she does that every day.
“I like that it’s competitive,” she says.

As a matter of fact, Wilkins says, Schneider is the “winner by quite a bit. There’s a ‘bus’ that’s picking everyone up at Lansing and bringing them all back; but I told her, ‘You’re so far ahead, you won’t get to ride the bus - you have to ride your bike back.’”

The health effects are obvious to Schneider, as well. “It works,” she says. “Before, I couldn’t pick up my legs and put them in bed. Now I can.”

Another resident participating in "Residents Ride RAGBRAI" is Richard Gearhart, who was the assistant principal and athletic director at Waukon Senior High School for 23 years. In 1985, he rode in the actual RAGBRAI event with a couple of friends.

“We were working for Pioneer Seed over in Algona,” he recalls. “About four of us from eastern Iowa decided we’d ride. So we rented some bicycles, and took off.”

They didn’t get very far, though, he noted. “It was raining like heck, so we quit.”

While they did ride, he remembers, “You always went the backroads, so you went through a lot of little towns,” he says. “It was fun, and of course the people wanted you to spend a little money, so they were real nice. Everyone was friendly - there would always be people out there waving at you. Someplace along the line, there was a farmer who had a farm pond, and he let us go swimming.”

In the “Residents Ride RAGBRAI” program at Good Samaritan, Gearhart is using a NuStep (the brand name of a recumbent stepping machine) and an arm bike, and he also walks to log in his miles. “I think it’s a good motivating thing,” he says.

At Northgate in Waukon, 37 residents are “riding RAGBRAI.” Tom Collins rides the floor bike and, four times per week, walks the quarter-mile trail that winds around the facility.

“I love it,” he says. “I get to see the different places on the trail, and I like the accomplishment.”

Physical therapist Tara McMullen says that, for her, the fun part of the program “is that we can get almost all the residents involved.”

Margie Ewing is doing rehab-to-home at Northgate, which provides an additional motivation for her hard work and training in the “Residents Ride RAGBRAI” program.

“When she first started, she was five minutes on the bike and walking 30 feet,” McMullen says. “Now she’s biking 15 minutes, and walking 400 feet.”

“I couldn’t do it without the girls,” Ewing says, referring to the therapists who are coaching her and facilitating her training.

At Thornton Manor in Lansing, 14 residents are participating in the program. Darlene Wyoman does her “route” three times per week, and works on the NuStep and the arm bike.

“I’m keeping my strength; I don’t want to lose it,” she says.

“It helps with her overall ability, so she doesn’t decline,” physical therapist Jessica Verdon says.

“It’s hard to keep track of (my progress),” Wyoman says, “so they do it for me.”

Rose Larkin is a resident in Assisted Living at Thornton Heights, and says she wanted to participate in the “Residents Ride RAGBRAI” program “because I have a granddaughter who’s riding. She has been doing it eight or nine years.”

Larkin is in the lead at the Thornton Manor rehabilitation facility, and says the program has given her “more endurance.”

Verdon thinks the program has been valuable “because a lot of the residents don’t get out very often.”

In fact, the response from residents and staff at all three facilities has been overwhelmingly positive, Wilkins says.

“The most rewarding part is seeing the excitement of the racers as they look at the map and see where they are along the course - and the extra effort they put forth to progress along the route,” she adds. “I have heard racers in the hall say that they have to ‘get their miles.’”

In addition to the work of the physical therapists, Wilkins says it has taken a lot of effort from multiple staff to make this successful. Restorative aids - staff who carry out exercise programs once a patient is off of their prescribed therapy caseload - have been instrumental in assisting with tracking miles for patients not on the therapists’ caseload.

“I have had staff ask if we can implement it with another event, since it has been a motivator for so many residents,” she says. “I have been thinking about what the next one might be, but have yet to come up with it.”

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)