Disability and travel: rehabilitation in accessible Tenerife
Disability Horizons Co-founder, Martyn Sibley, tells us about his recent trip to Tenerife and the accessible rehabilitation centre in the sun, Vintersol.
For regular readers of my blog and Disability Horizons, you’ll know about my love affair with Tenerife. On my recent trip, I obviously experienced my old favourites -the warm sun, the sea views and the vibrant surroundings. But this time, I also experienced something completely new, the Vintersol rehabilitation centre. You’re going to be as surprised and delighted as I was!
The Vintersol rehabilitation centre is situated about as close as you can get to the accessible beach, Playa de las Vistas. I’d zoomed past the centre on many walks before, and wondered what was happening inside. After all, a clinic on the beach front had some mystery to it, so it was great to finally get to explore the place.
After a good flight and accessible transfer from Tenerife airport, Kasia and I checked into the hotel. Our first impressions were really positive – it was bright and open, everywhere was wheelchair accessible and the staff were very welcoming.
Our room had a ceiling hoist that lifted me up and down, moved me left to right, and ran down the entire length of the room. In essence, the hoist could reach every part of the room.
The beds were electric and in the bathroom there was a spacious wetroom shower. I’d brought my toilet/shower chair, but Vintersol provide them as well. Even the sink and toilet could be lowered and raised by hand controlled buttons.
It was very well adapted, to say they least! To top it off, our terrace sea view was spectacular.
The area around the hotel swimming pool was relaxing, although it got livelier during aquafit 🙂 The two pools have hoists and accessible changing rooms nearby. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything is covered.
Watch my video to see just what I mean about Vintersol.
Rehabilitation in the sun
I hadn’t done physiotherapy for many years. Occasionally my personal care assistants (PAs) have help me to do basic stretches for my joints and muscles. But, considering I’m sat down all day, that’s not enough. Unfortunately, our British government doesn’t fund adults to get physio, and £40 an hour for private support is too expensive for me.
Vintersol has offered disabled people (predominantly Swedish and Norwegian) rehabilitation for decades. Patients receive world-class treatment for physio, occupational therapy and other therapies. With the backdrop of warm sun, and highly adapted facilities, it’s perfect for starting or continuing your rehabilitation programs.
I was really nervous before my first physio session, which I would have daily whilst I stayed there. My mind was filled with childhood memories of protractors measuring my joints, my muscles hurting, and physio-induced tears flowing. The professionals were surprised I was so nervous. They calmed me down very well.
My physiotherapist was called Ione (ee-oh-ne). He had worked with people with Spinal Muscular Atrophy before, plus he supported Barcelona FC, so we got on famously!
Here’s my physio diary of what I did with him:
Day 1 – Ione carefully moved and stretched my legs and arms. They were metaphorically yelling with happiness for this new movement. I did ache a bit that evening, but in a good way.
Day 2 – I sat on the bed with my feet on blocks. I had to use my muscles more actively this time. I did ache during and after the session. It felt less pleasant, but I knew it was good for me.
Day 3 – I stayed in my wheelchair and used the adapted gym machines. With Ione’s help, I pushed and pulled the weighted strings. This didn’t have as strong effect, but maybe I was already benefiting from the previous days. I also learnt some helpful breathing exercises.
Day 4 – I returned to the stretches from day 1. They definitely felt the most beneficial. My joints and muscles felt great during and after.
As well as the benefits of the physio itself, I also learned new ideas that I could share with my PAs back home. I’ve already been doing this since returning.
If I had of stayed longer we would have done some sessions in the pool, which would have been great. Generally, I’d have seen a greater benefit over three or more weeks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make day 5, due to a work commitment. But I definitely felt improvements in just those 4 days.
Group rehabilitation sessions
As part of the rehabilitation package, there are group sessions too. These are spread out across the Vintersol complex and range from relaxation methods and gentle movement, to more active pursuits. There are even art sessions, too, all with the aim of getting people moving more and improving health. Plus, Vintsol puts on evening entertainment to help you wind down from the rehabilitation.
My final thoughts
If I’m totally honest, I would never have thought of putting rehabilitation sessions together with a holiday. But on reflection, I can completely see why it works. Disabled people are often so busy fighting against barriers that it’s easy to overlook the maintenance of our own bodies and health.
Having world-class treatment in the sunshine is a very clever idea. And, of course, when you are not due in physio or in the swimming pool, the beach, bars, restaurants and shops are on your doorstep. So you get the best of both worlds.
If you have any questions about Tenerife and accessible travel there, do give me a shout (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you have any questions on the rehabilitation services and how to book at Vintersol, please get in touch with them at email@example.com.
By Martyn Sibley
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