I’m a Senior Occupational Therapist in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly, working across several acute wards and primarily with patients who have Parkinson’s Disease. I have to have in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the condition presents differently in each patient I see.
My role is about facilitating safe and timely discharges. Patients arrive on our wards acutely unwell and we work closely with the multidisciplinary team, especially Physiotherapy, to assess their needs and make sure they are able to go home safely once they are medically fit.
We quickly identify the best option for the patient, whether that’s going home with additional support, inpatient rehabilitation, or in some cases looking at residential or nursing care. A lot of our elderly patients could be socially isolated as a result of living alone, and part of our role is to signpost and refer to other agencies which can help with this, such as befriending services.
Risk assessment is a large part of my role. We look at the impact a diagnosis or medical condition may have on patients’ ability to perform everyday activities. Many patients are admitted following a fall, so we work closely with them to look at why they fell, how we could prevent future falls, and which coping mechanisms we can introduce. We work closely with families to understand how the patient was managing before they were admitted, so we can provide any additional support which may be needed. It’s really important to include the family in assessments – they often need support as well.
We assess patients in a number of ways, from cognitive assessments to looking at how they cope with everyday tasks such as making a meal or looking after themselves. The focus can vary from patient to patient, as it is such an individual process, and we cater for that by providing patient-centred goals. We sometimes go out to patients’ homes to make sure the property is safe and suitable for their needs. It may be that we have to take some additional equipment if their needs have changed.
I love the fast-paced nature of the job. Patients may only be on the ward for a day or two, and we have to use that time to quickly build a rapport to gain trust and achieve successful therapy outcomes. Sometimes, patients have to spend longer on the wards here, and they might need ongoing therapy to support a significant illness or end of life care. We can help palliative patients to return home at the end of their life, if that is their wish, and that is a real privilege. So many of our elderly patients have stories to share, and I feel very honoured to be part of their journey – even in a small way.