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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.
In May 2014, Carers Australia published a discussion paper, Dying at home: Preferences and roles for unpaid carers. It seems fitting that during National Carers Week we recognise the contribution that carers make to people who are dying. Most people wish to be cared for and die at home with the people they love and in familiar surroundings. Remaining at home is made much more likely where there is someone, or a group of people, who is willing to provide care and support for the dying person. Family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours all have taken on a caring role.
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.