A formula for success in Occupational Therapy during and after the pandemic.

Occupational Therapy aims to improve a person’s ability to do everyday tasks, if they are experiencing difficulties. Minoeska Teeuwen, Lead Occupational Therapist Service Manager and Clodagh Chapman, Senior Occupational Therapist, provide an insight into the work they are doing to support residents of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to have a better quality of life.

Optalis OTs and OTAs (Occupational Therapy Assistants) work in a number of teams across our Statutory Social Care Services. Minoeska oversees occupational therapy within the Physical Disability and Older People Team (PDOPT), whilst working closely with her OT colleagues in STS&R (Short Term Support and Rehabilitation service) and Keep Safe Keep Well (falls prevention service).
Within PDOPT, the Discharge to Assess OTs in PDOPT, provide invaluable support to people to enable them to safely leave hospital. While the Long Term OT Team play an important role in preventing hospital admissions, in the first place.

A key function in social work teams

An OT’s role is to ascertain the needs of the individual and identify options to address these needs, either through supporting the person to re-learn the task, do it in a different way or use an adaption and/or physical support. The preferred approach is to always work with the individual to help them to re-learn a skill or learn to do it in a different way, with equipment and adaptions being used as a last resort.

The long term team see new people coming into the service as well as people who they have previously supported returning, due to changing needs. They have a focus on supporting people living with long term conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. There’s an emphasis on prevention, supporting people with low level needs to stay independent. These may be people who are beginning to struggle at home and may be slowing down due to age or health. The OTAs, in particular, support people to be able to continue living at home by helping meet their bathing needs, helping people who need support to transfer in and out of bed or in and out of their chairs and to get up and down the stairs.

Efficient and effective operating practices

The team has undergone much change over the past year, and introduced more streamlined and effective ways of working. This has seen benefits across the board for all team members. As well as improving the experience for the people we support, with all residents receiving the same consistent approach. An example of which, is the moving and handling assessment and risk reduction plan, which used to take an OT two hours to complete, however with the new paperwork and processes the same outcome can be accomplished in just 10 minutes. This is one of many projects the team have undertaken to innovate and become more efficient, resulting in resources being used more wisely. This huge amount of work and the positive contribution from every team member placed the service in a good position to respond to the pandemic.

Minoeska reflects that rather than the pandemic hindering their progression, it has actually sharpened their focus. The team go on to explain, that the journey for residents is more effective and there has been an increased willingness for people to engage digitally. As a measure to limit the spread of COVID, the team try to prioritise accordingly and complete a lot more work remotely, gathering more information prior to a visit and reducing the amount of time when they are out. It is something they have said that they are keen to continue post-pandemic. Minoeska adds 

“The biggest surprise has been working from home. It has enabled the team to manage their time much more effectively.”

Improved team working, better relationships and up to date and connected colleagues

Despite some of the challenges the team reflects on several positive outcomes over the past few months. The team has seen improved working relationships and better integration with health and social care partners, with colleagues across the board working together to meet the needs of the customer. The team has utilised virtual meetings, starting as a weekly OT coffee chat to keep their team members up to date and connected. They have also maintained strong working relationships with the social work team in which they are based, helping colleagues to better understand what the OT team are developing and what support they can offer.

The partnership working between OT and Social Work colleagues, under the management of Pauline D’Cunha Head of PDOPT, places an emphasis on personalised and optimised long term care provision. Minoeska explains 

“Our joint aim is to support residents to set up an optimising support level that fits within their most desirable way of living. If we get it right from the start, we may prevent needs increasing in the future.”

Preparing for the future and delivering reablement

Looking forward, the team recognise that there is likely to be a considerable amount of people post-lockdown who have experienced de-conditioning. With many older people who previously may have been very active in their community and involved in local groups, not doing their daily walks, or activities for a significant amount of time. There is a very strong likelihood that without these activities people will have experienced a loss of muscle mass, low confidence and may become more likely to fall. The team have been preparing for this and continue to do a lot of work around enablement. Over the past year, the numerous projects the team have undertaken have supported better communication with residents and educated the public about the support that is available. The team want to continue this work and develop an enablement programme, with a view to promoting people’s ability to live the best life possible with their disability. Alongside this, they are looking at building capacity and skills within their team, with discussions at local universities to promote the work of the team and the roles available, as well as exploring apprenticeship opportunities and rotational OT training posts.