A Safe Environment
A therapist's gym is a multipurpose room not only for the staff but also patients. For the staff, it's used for in-services, luncheons and meetings. For the patients we see, the gym is used for exercises to get stronger, a place to encourage and become encouraged by others, and a safe place to express frustrations.
Often when I'm with patients in the gym, they'll tell me about their family struggles or a difficult nurse the night before. The patients open up about their lives the more they are with me in the gym. The gym becomes a confessional room of sorts where patients can express themselves to us without guilt of reprisal, although I'm quite stunned by what some of the patients have told me.
One spoke about a pipe bomb that he built and what it was for. The bomb exploded in his basement and he was being seen for wound care. He also tried to sell me an AK-47. One patient spoke of writing all her children out of the will because they were going to her house to claim items while she was in the SNF. I politely declined to sign as a witness on some forms a lawyer brought to her.
Quite a few patients have told me about medications or home remedies they've brought from home. Of course I let the nurse know about it. I'm always surprised by what a patient will tell me next when we are alone in the gym. There are patients who will complain about their families and neighbors who come to visit. I've heard so many stories and so-called "family secrets" that I could write a hundred five-minute mysteries to bedazzle even Edgar Allan Poe.