Why Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Matters at St Columba’s Hospice.
St Columba’s Hospice strives to ensure everyone within our community has access to excellent palliative care whoever they are, wherever they are and whenever they need it. This includes access to physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Through our five year strategy, Care and Compassion Matters, St Columba’s Hospice has demonstrated its commitment to the development of services to help our patients and families be cared for and supported whether within the Hospice or at home. This has included an exciting opportunity to expand the occupational therapy and physiotherapy team.
This year we have welcomed physiotherapist Donna Duffy, physiotherapy assistant Val Gibson and occupational therapist Jennifer McLean. They join the already established therapy team of Yvonne Whitehouse, physiotherapist; Fiona Cruickshank, occupational therapist; and Marion Bowen, occupational therapy assistant, to provide support for inpatients and community patients alike.
Both physiotherapy and occupational therapy work closely together and patients can be involved with one or both at different times of their illness. This team is complemented by Liam McAlonie, the patient and family support assistant, who is integral in supporting patients’ transition between the Hospice and home.
The service helps families feel confident
The reasons behind the development of the team are two-fold. Current figures show the majority of people would choose to die at home and an increase in therapy services will help support people at home in their last weeks and days of life, by assessing for and arranging provision of specialist beds, chairs and other equipment. The service helps families feel confident in caring for someone in the safest ways to make them as comfortable as possible.
The other reason is to address the common misconception that palliative care physiotherapy and occupational therapy are only appropriate when someone is coming to the end of their life; in fact, it is beneficial much earlier than that. With the advances in treatments for life-limiting illnesses, people are living much longer with these illnesses and the side effects that treatments can cause. People often feel they are not able to do all the activities they used to and that they have lost some independence. These symptoms can be improved or managed through palliative care physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
We provide practical support to enable people to overcome physical and psychological difficulties that prevent them from doing the activities that matter to them. We can look at the important areas of patients’ lives and decide how best to work with them to achieve their goals and help people to move around and stay as active and independent as possible. With the expansion of the team, we have the opportunity to assess more people at home to make the environment more accessible, to provide equipment to aid everyday tasks, to assess for small adaptations at home like rails and bannisters and to provide specific functional exercise to help them achieve the things that are important to them.
We aim to maximise patient’s abilities
We are also very pleased to now be in position to develop classes for symptom control including breathlessness, fatigue, anxiety, and muscle weakness either from illness or its treatments. We will provide guidance and advice on appropriate types and level of activity and exercise, and work on specific things like strength and balance. These will be available for both people that live at home and people in the inpatient unit and will focus on techniques and tips for managing these symptoms.
The additional input on the ward will help us assess and provide rehabilitation to patients who are admitted and will benefit from this to help maintain their levels of ability, and build on the existing role that we have on the ward supporting the transition between the Hospice and home.
We work closely with our inpatient and community staff as well as GPs, consultants, district nurses and carers, ensuring patients get a person-centred approach to their support. We aim to maximise patient’s abilities and help them to achieve their goals, whilst supporting them to cope and adapt with some of the physical and psychological problems they may face.