Copyright – Royal College of Occupational Therapists 2019 – Care Homes and Equipment Guiding Principles for assessment and provision
With more people living at home for longer, many are delaying the move into an aged care facility until they are seriously ill. This can result in increased complexity of care – placing further demand on an already stretched aged care workforce.
While most staff are aware of the benefits of one-to-one person-centred care, many struggle to find the time needed to focus on individual rehabilitation plans especially when a resident’s needs suddenly change.
Speaking at a recent NZACA workshop, Sharon Woodward a registered Occupational Therapist at Cubro with more than 12 years of experience in healthcare, offered some insights into the importance of aged care rehabilitation.
Taking the case study of Ava, adapted from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, she highlighted a very real challenge for staff working in aged care.
Imagine Ada is an 80-year old who lives in a residential care facility. She has dementia but is still able to walk around with a walking stick and undertake personal care tasks with supervision. When Ada becomes unwell with a virus, she stayed in bed for a week but when she is able to sit back up in her chair, staff had difficulty moving her as she had become very weak. Because of her diagnosis of dementia, a rehabilitation programme was not put in place and Ada became fully reliant on support staff for care.
As Sharon explained, most aged care staff would understand that the desired outcome would have been to set Ada a goal of walking again. With the help of equipment and training that supports mobility and transfer, this could have meant that over time Ada could get in and out of a chair independently and be able to maintain her independence with a walking frame.
Studies have shown that when a resident like Ada is engaged in this way and is able to be a central part of their individual care plan, it increases their sense of wellbeing and purpose The Royal College of Occupational Therapists says placing the person in the heart of the planning, decision making and equipment provision contributes to their safety, independence and quality of life.
However, for staff to be able to do this for Ada and for the many other residents in their care its often down to not working harder but smarter. To do this, Sharon offers the following tips:
- Making the time to conduct a needs assessment – If an aged care worker notices a change in a resident’s needs or health then it is a good idea to undergo an assessment. Many facilities have rehabilitation experts such as Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists that can help and assist. If there are any ACC resident’s they can request an Occupational Therapy assessment through an ACC contractor.
- Having a clear support plan in place – Working with these experts and the resident themselves is important in order to put an achievable care plan in place. Ultimately, the more the resident is able to do for themselves the better it is for their ongoing function. It also reduces pressure on staff as they can take more of a support and guidance role rather than a ‘doing’ role’.
- Consider the use of equipment that can support and maintain these plans – Having the right equipment and rehabilitation plan in place benefits both the resident and carer alike. Not only does it reduce the amount of physical strain for the carer but using the right equipment is an excellent way to facilitate good positioning and movement which support ‘s the resident’s health and wellbeing.
While time will always provide a barrier especially when it comes to rehabilitation for aged care staff, with the right support and equipment, staff have a great opportunity to greatly enhance the resident’s quality of life.