Rocking chairs aid memory

Wanda McPhearson enjoys rocking and looking out the window in Owensboro Health’s Transitional Care Unit.

There’s a spot in Owensboro Health Regional Hospital that gives patients a birds-eye view of the Glover H. Cary Blue Bridge and downtown Owensboro.

“It’s the ideal place to watch the fireworks and air show,” said Salanda Bowman, manager of nursing for the hospital’s Transitional Care Center of Owensboro.

Besides the fab view sprawled out in front of them, patients in the transitional care unit are enjoying a pastime usually reserved for front porches and living rooms. In the unit, a bank of windows is lined with rocking chairs, thanks to a grant from the OH Foundation.

Rocking, as it turns out, is therapeutic.

The hospital’s transitional care center is a short-stay skilled facility that offers patients a bridge between hospitalization and returning home.

“I wanted rocking chairs about six years ago,” Bowman said.

She knew the benefits.

“We know that the motion of rocking alleviates pain and anxiety and provides comfort,” Bowman said.

It also helps strengthen the body’s core and knees, which can improve balance.

A Johns Hopkins University study backs that up. It found rocking improves psychological well-being and balance in nursing home residents who suffer from dementia.

And the National Institutes of Health is conducting a current clinical trial on the effects of rocking chair therapy in elderly patients.

“The therapy sessions will be held every afternoon, for two hours, under the supervision of the unit psychologist and a master’s degree psychology student,” according to NIH literature. “During the daily session, each resident should be encouraged to actively rock to reach the goal of 60 minutes of rocking accumulated every day.”

Therapy sessions will last six weeks. NIH expects to conclude the study in February 2021.

Bowman said rocking encourages patients and their visitors to slow down and think about the next step in their medical care journey.

For people who suffer memory loss, rocking can bring back childhood memories.

“It’s a wonderful experience for them to be able to pull that memory back,” Bowman said.

The chairs arrived in February. The OH Foundation grant for $13,000 paid for chairs at OHRH and OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital, along with other programs.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835,

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835,

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