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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.
Occupational therapy is a health profession which enables people to participate in everyday life activities to the best of their ability despite their condition, illness progression, activity limitations or participation restrictions. In palliative care this premise does not change, as occupational therapists are skilled in enabling people to adapt to their changing ability levels, and helping people to continue living until they die, just as Dame Cicely Sanders famously quoted. However, the role that occupational therapists play is often misunderstood and under-utilised, resulting in the role being limited to discharge planning, home assessments, and equipment prescription. While these are important parts of the occupational therapy role, palliative care occupational therapists can offer so much more to their clients to enable them to keep living and remained engaged in everyday activities for as long as possible. To do this, occupational therapists follow a process which helps them to assess, intervene and evaluate their treatment plans.
August 8th is Dying to Know Day – a campaign that encourages people across the country to engage in meaningful conversation around death, dying and loss by hosting events in their local area. This is its 5th year running and it has clocked up over 403 individual events!
So why on earth should we talk about death?!
Many cultures around the world have a different approach to death. In many countries, people generally die at home surrounded by their community, it is an important time for a community to gather and support each other. Death is not a scary thing to talk about because people have seen the process over their lifetime, they are familiar with the rituals and traditions so they know exactly what to expect and how to respond.
The 2017 MOOC global contributions saw a definite desire from people to reclaim dying and death - to be more personally involved in processes which are the natural progressions in life. There was a great sense of 'community' in the need for more knowledge about death, about illness and preparing for death.
Personally for me it drove home the great yawning chasm of a need to educate our health care professionals - to cut out the 'doctor speak' and learn how to talk about dying and death with patients and family. We need trailblazing medicos, astute advanced care planners and guidelines as more and more people wish to be able to die at home. We need a powerful innovative palliative care structure to facilitate people's needs to ensure comfort and safety at end of life.