Saint Francis Hospice: Providing occupational therapy from a distance

Claire Smart is an occupational therapist at Saint Francis Hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Claire Smart is an occupational therapist at Saint Francis Hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

Claire Smart, an occupational therapist at Saint Francis Hospice, says her aim has always been to promote people’s independence, wellbeing and quality of life.

As occupational therapists we usually see people in their own homes or the hospice, and run a variety of groups and interventions to support people.

I had only been working at the hospice for a short number of weeks before the pandemic started and I have seen a huge change to the way I am working. We are no longer able to see people at home and our groups have been postponed to maintain the safety of our patients.

It has been difficult to accept these changes, as we want to continue to provide a high level of service. However, we are determined to continue to find innovative new ways to support people during this crisis and help to maintain their quality of life.

We have been completing assessments over the phone and using digital methods to help with those assessments. This has been a new challenge but has been working very well; it is bringing us closer together with patients and their families during this uncertain time and allowing for a holistic and collaborative approach.

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We have also developed online resources to support people, including advice on fatigue management and breathlessness, so people can self-manage their symptoms at home. We have also started virtual group sessions for fatigue and breathlessness management which we complete on Zoom. Pilot sessions have been very successful and allow patients to interact with staff and each other to discuss their symptoms and learn strategies to self-manage at home. A popular innovation has also been to produce activity packs for patients both at home and on our ward. Completing daily, meaningful occupation is important for people’s mental health and wellbeing and our packs are filled with puzzles, mindfulness colouring pictures and quiz questions to occupy the mind.

We hope these packs will provide a welcome distraction and have been sending them out regularly until people can attend our hospice services again.

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