Greater occupational therapy emphasis needed for palliative care patients

April 14, 2014 by Rob Payne
The researchers note only 1.6 per cent of OTs in Australia work in palliative care, compared to 8 to 12 per cent in Canada, with a ratio of one OT per 875 people in WA. Credit: Henry Rabinowitz

Local researchers are calling for a greater role for Occupational Therapists (OTs) in end-of-life palliative care in Western Australia.

Curtin University experts Sharon Keesing and Professor Lorna Rosenwax say internationally accepted 'standards' for best practice in are not being implemented, and that unlike in the US and UK, OTs are not viewed as essential members of teams.

"It is estimated that by 2016, the demand for will outweigh available services in WA," Ms Keesing says.

"[This] means policies, models of service delivery and organisational strategies must be developed so that dying people and their carers are able to receive quality, timely and easily accessible care, including occupational therapy.

"Currently no OTs are employed in private community hospice or community 'hospice in the home' services. 

"Similarly, limited opportunities for OTs are available to provide palliative care for people living in residential aged care facilities."

The researchers say service referral is problematic, including uncertainties around if and when to refer, and a lack of understanding exists about what OTs can provide to those approaching death.

"Even towards the end of life, there are so many activities people can participate in: their own personal care, tasks around the home, attending appointments, meeting with friends and family, hobbies, and many others," Ms Keesing say.

"OTs assist people to continue in all these activities by modifying tasks, the impact of symptoms and the home environment. 

"Sometimes, clients are also involved in short-term rehabilitation to improve quality of life in their last few months."

The researchers say that OTs are essential for those wishing to die at home, rather than a hospital, an option which is currently limited in the state. 

"Dying people may prefer to be in their familiar , with access to their family and friends, maintaining as many of their familiar tasks and roles as possible," Ms Keesing says. 

"With assistance from an OT, people can continue to make choices about what they want to do each day and are not dictated by hospital routines. This in effect, helps them to achieve 'a good death'."

The researchers note only 1.6 per cent of OTs in Australia work in palliative care, compared to 8 to 12 per cent in Canada, with a ratio of one OT per 875 people in WA.

"As Australian and researchers in end-of-life care, we are determined to bring about change for dying people and their carers," Ms Keesing says.

Explore further: Early palliative care avoids emergency stress

More information: Keesing, S. and Rosenwax, L. (2013), "Establishing a role for occupational therapists in end-of-life care in Western Australia." Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60: 370–373. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12058

Related Stories

Early palliative care avoids emergency stress

September 3, 2013
Cancer patients who receive early access to community-based palliative care are less likely to go to the emergency department coming towards the end of their life, according to Curtin University research.

Misunderstanding of palliative care leads to preventable suffering

December 13, 2013
A new review says palliative care's association with end of life has created an "identity problem" that means the majority of patients facing a serious illness do not benefit from treatment of the physical and psychological ...

Stroke patients should receive customized palliative care

March 27, 2014
People recovering from a stroke should have a well-coordinated medical team to personalize care, optimize quality of life and minimize suffering, according to a scientific statement published in the American Heart Association ...

Home palliative care services double people's chances of dying at home and reduce symptoms

June 11, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new Cochrane review led by King's College London has found that providing home palliative care doubles the odds that someone with a terminal illness can die at home if they want to, and leads to better ...

New report evaluates palliative and hospice care in Ireland

January 23, 2013
Investment in end-of-life care has made Ireland a world leader in advancing palliative and hospice care but regional inequities persist, according to an evaluation report just published by the Dean of Health Sciences at Trinity ...

Involving other providers in palliative care may help meet growing demand

March 6, 2013
As baby-boomers age and the number of people with serious chronic illnesses continues to rise, the demand for experts in palliative medicine is sure to outstrip the supply, according Timothy E. Quill, M.D., professor of Medicine, ...

Recommended for you

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.