July 10, 2013

Merwick’s New Garden Is Designed With Physical Therapy in Mind

Merwick Care and Rehabilitation in Plainsboro has added an outdoor dimension to its physical therapy treatments with a 7,500 square foot garden designed with a purpose.

The therapy garden, the first such in the northeast, allows patients undergoing rehabilitation to enjoy nature while they receive physical therapy. As well as flowers and a fountain, the garden boasts paths made of sand, gravel, brick, and asphalt that afford patients the challenge of walking on various surfaces as an aid to recovery. Raised planter beds for gardening and benches of differing heights ostensibly offer recreational opportunities with recovery in mind. A gazebo features a door for those who need practice with manual dexterity. There is also a putting green and a parked car that patients can practice entering and exiting.

“The new physical therapy garden is not only beautiful, it includes practical objects to ensure patients practice real life skills to regain their strength and flexibility,” said Michael Jacobs, vice president at Windsor Healthcare.

In 2011, Merwick Care and Rehabilitation moved from its longtime Princeton location to a new 200-bed facility overlooking the Millstone River near the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro hospital off Route 1.

The therapy garden adds to the existing state-of-the-art rehabilitation gym, called the Luxor Pavilion. The garden can be viewed from the gym’s two-story glass window.

Outdoor therapy benefits patients preparing to return home through activities that they will likely use once they leave Merwick.

When the garden opened last month, West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hseuh and Plainsboro Township Deputy Mayor Neil Lewis were among those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with Hyman Jacobs, president and CEO of Windsor Healthcare, Merwick’s parent organization and a family-owned business.

“We are very excited about the new therapy garden. As a company dedicated to healing and providing patient-centered care, we are pleased to offer this unique outdoor therapy setting to our residents and patients,” said CEO Jacobs.

“Many of the things that happen inside can happen outside,” said Jack Carman, a landscape architect with Design for Generations, who devotes his practice to designing therapy gardens. “Nature is a positive distraction. You accomplish so much more being out in the garden. It’s a value to the patients, as well as the community.” The Merwick therapy garden will be the only one of its kind in the region, Carman said.

According to Merwick Administrator Lesley Vodofsky, the new therapy garden is designed to help patients get back into their homes and will have “almost every obstacle a person can encounter,” in everyday life. The idea is that patients will be distracted by the setting and won’t realize they are getting therapy. As patients use the garden, walk, sit on benches, or hang clothes on the clothesline, therapists will be able to assess their progress.

The garden not only benefits those outdoors but also those who are working indoors at Merwick. Mr. Carman cites studies showing that patients who can see nature from their hospital room heal faster and feel less pain than patients who don’t. Looking at nature, it seems, helps to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center is part of Windsor Healthcare, a family-owned business. The 200-bed facility overlooks the Millstone River at 100 Plainsboro Road off Route 1, near the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. For more information, call (609) 240-6886.