Claire White is the Occupational Therapy Team Lead at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. Here, she talks about the role of her team and the virtual course they introduced during the pandemic to provide patients with self-management help and advice, which has revealed a new way to reach more people needing support at home.
“Our team is made up of four part-time occupational therapists and one part-time therapy assistant, who are based across our three sites in Reading, Newbury and Wokingham. We are a very busy team, averaging approximately 50 new referrals to our service each month.
A varied role
“In my role, I provide support to patients on the inpatient unit at the hospice. The majority of my work is focused on discharge planning, supporting patients in returning home and setting them up with what they need to either receive palliative care or to be able to continue functioning as independently as possible, with the support of a tailored care package if required.
“The work we do out in the community is very varied. We can see patients who are generally managing well and it might just be a very short intervention to help with a specific problem such as getting out of the bath. Other patients can have very complex conditions that change regularly and they might need support for a much longer period of time.
“It is extremely important that the patient and their carers feel involved”
“If a patient chooses to receive palliative care at home, moving and handling is a big focus for us to ensure that they can maintain as much independence as possible, or be supported with their needs with a variety of specialist adaptive equipment ranging from toilet aids through to tracking hoists.
“It is extremely important that the patient and their carers feel involved with all interventions and have a choice as to what is provided in their homes, and we always aim to do this in the least intrusive way we can.”
One day at a time
To offer additional support to patients, the occupational therapy team has recently added a new virtual course to its service which provides self-management help and advice.
The four-week course, called ‘One Day At A Time’ (ODAAT), runs bi-monthly and consists of a weekly one-hour Zoom workshop covering a range of important topics, such as mood, sleep, nutrition, movement, stress and fatigue management. Patients are encouraged to set goals they would like to achieve and share tips, advice and experiences with others who may be in a similar situation to them.
Reaching more people
“We’re really pleased with how the course is going so far. While we’ve had to run it online due to coronavirus restrictions, we’ve actually found that this has allowed us to reach more patients who might otherwise struggle to attend a session in-person. For example, one of the patients had had a fall the night before and he was able to attend the course from home in his dressing gown. He never would have made it to the hospice to attend in normal circumstances.
“After the first course, the patients fed back that they enjoyed the social interaction and were keen to keep in touch with each other. So, we’re now offering patients the opportunity to join 'ODAAT Friends' after the course is finished, which is an informal group led by the hospice's care and engagement facilitator. This runs for a further four weeks and gives patients the opportunity to meet up again at the same time for a chat. They can also choose to swap numbers and keep in touch if they wish.”
“You suddenly realise you are not alone and that there are others in a similar situation”
One of the patients who has benefited from attending the virtual workshops is Michael Greenslade, who was diagnosed with myeloma a year ago and has been shielding at home during the pandemic.
“I was invited to go on a series of Zoom meetings with some other people to discuss various things that affect us all. For example, ‘How do you manage to sleep?’ Sleep is one of the things that chemo has really disturbed for me. I can sleep for three or four hours but then I wake up and I also find myself then sleeping in the day sometimes. I also had shaky hands from the chemo, so I have started making models to try and help with that.
“It was good talking with the others at the meeting about these things because you suddenly realise you are not alone and that there are other people in a similar situation.”