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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
When someone has an incurable disease like advanced cancer or motor neurone disease, they experience many changes, one of which is functional decline. Although functional decline is inevitable at the end-of-life, the drive for people to remain as independent as possible is actually heightened at this time. The occupational therapist (OT) has two key roles to play here. Firstly, they play an active role in optimising a person’s independence and participation as function declines. Secondly, by supporting active participation in everyday activities to the best of a person’s ability, the OT can support people to come to terms with bodily deterioration and pending death. I’ll look at these two concepts in more detail.
Move it or lose it, as the saying goes, is relevant to the field of palliative care. In fact, evidence suggests that up to 30% of muscle weakness in advanced illness can be due to inactivity itself.
Physiotherapists are in a prime position to make a difference to how patients experience end of life by helping them maximise their independence at each stage. Expertise in functional assessment combined with an understanding of the impact of symptoms on the lived experience enables therapists to work closely with patients to improve their quality of life (QOL).