Family CARE Grant Provides “Movement Medicine” for Renal Patients

Published Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Family CARE Grant Provides “Movement Medicine” for Renal Patients

by Graham Strong

“Movement is medicine.” Activity of any kind has long been known to help prevent disease and injury, but we are still learning how important it can be for healing. From getting surgery patients up and moving as soon as possible to exercise programs for those recovering from heart attacks, movement is becoming part of treatment plans more and more.

Now, thanks to a Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant, renal patients will soon have a new weight-based movement program to help during their dialysis.

Maria Talarico, a clinical nurse in the Renal Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, saw firsthand how exercise helps renal patients. She worked in a dialysis unit in Toronto that developed an exercise program for its patients.

“I thought it was a great idea – it gets them moving, and it gives them something to do while they’re undergoing dialysis treatment,” Talarico said.

She and a team of health professionals including Christina Brassard (social work), Amy Roukema (social work), Laurenne Stuart (social work), and Marina Bruno (nursing) are developing a group exercise program that can be tailored to each renal patient. They consult with other allied health professionals as needed.

“We’re meeting our patients where they are at and trying to compensate for all abilities,” Stuart said. Some patients will be sitting up, some will be sitting down, some are older, some are younger, most have other health conditions including diabetes, and some have had amputations, which are common among renal patients.

That’s why the Family CARE Grant was so important. Renal Services has exercise bikes available, but not everyone can use them. Now, the program can purchase dumbbells and resistance bands for a wider range of options – and to help a wider number of patients.

“By changing weight or resistance, you can make things more or less challenging, depending on their strength and abilities,” Stuart said.

Many renal patients are Indigenous including some from remote First Nations who may not speak English. The team will work closely with its two Indigenous Patient Navigators so that patients understand the purpose of the exercises and to ensure the program is culturally appropriate.

The team is still working out details of the new exercise program to ensure it’s safe and effective for renal patients. There are similar programs popping up across the country, so everyone is developing together. One thing is certain: physicians will be closely integrated for health assessments and to set any necessary exercise limits. After that, the team will develop some exercise routines and measures for success, tweaking as they go.

“Any movement is a good thing,” Brassard said. “We’ll be working together to offer safe exercise programs, first and foremost. But we want to add variety as the program progresses to keep patient interest.”

“It’s a very open unit, so we’re hoping that once patients see others doing the exercise program, they’ll want to get involved, too,” Talarico said.

Once up and running, the team hopes to roll out similar programs at Renal Services’ satellite sites in Northwestern Ontario in the future.

This is one of many programs funded by Family CARE Grants. These grants empower staff to implement their ideas for improving patient care. But we couldn’t do it without generous donors like you. Please help us fund more success stories like this by donating online at or calling our Donation Centre at 807-345-4673.



Thanks to the generosity of donors, renal patients like Tracy McEachern have a new weight-based movement program to help during dialysis. Ten sets of hand weights and 10 resistance bands were funded through a Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant.


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