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Ask our occupational therapist

Heather Parsons recently joined Hospiscare's supportive care team as our new occupational therapist.

We talked to Heather about her role and how she’s helping patients to live more independently.

What is occupational therapy?

By ‘occupations’ we mean things that people do on a daily basis – from brushing their teeth to cooking a meal. I help patients find ways to continue doing the things that are important to them. We consider how to manage symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and pain that may be limiting their abilities. We do this by asking ‘What’s important to them? What are they finding tricky? What solutions can we find?’

Those solutions might involve rehabilitation activities to build the patient’s strength and improve their range of movement or changing the way they do something to make it easier. We might arrange for equipment or adaptations, such as a stairlift, to improve their environment.

Some changes can seem quite small but have a big impact. For example, raising a chair or toilet can make getting up much easier.

Can you give an example of how occupational therapy has helped a patient?

I’m currently working with a gentleman who lives in a second-floor flat. His health has deteriorated but he wants to be able to leave his home to go into town, so we’ve looked at how to maintain his independence.

We’ve installed a stairlift and grab rail from his bedroom to the lounge and provided bathing and toileting equipment. He’s also worried about breathlessness, so we’ve encouraged him to sing when he walks to manage this.

Occupational therapy is patient-centred and holistic. Our interventions consider the social, cultural, spiritual, physical, environmental and psychological effects of any illness, supporting the whole situation, including family and carers.

Hospiscare is such a lovely organisation and I really enjoy the face-to-face contact I have with patients.