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A Revolution In Aged Care

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
A Revolution In Aged Care

The report into aged care, 'What does the future hold for older New Zealanders?' rightly identifies 'boredom and doing nothing' and the need to up-skill care staff as barriers to achieving positive health and wellbeing for older people.

Having nothing to do is caused by everyday practices in residential care that occupational therapists can address. With their unique perspective on positive ageing and community building, occupational therapists focus on increasing occupational opportunities and limiting barriers to participation for older people living at home and in residential care.

Occupational therapists are the only health professionals that have the combination of qualifications required to assess older people's skills, interests and capacity to engage in everyday activities; determine the impact of environment; and apply empirically tested practice to improve health through occupation.

Grace O'Sullivan, occupational therapist and 2010 recipient of the prestigious Frances Rutherford Lecture Award, advocates that 'opportunities to engage in daily occupations are crucial to the health of all human beings, including older people and those with dementia,' and adds that 'international studies suggest that people live better, feel better, and maintain better health and wellbeing when they engage in meaningful occupations or activities.''

The growing awareness of the complexity of health care needs of older people when they enter residential care facilities points to a greater need for a refocus on the model of care, and within this an increasing requirement for occupational therapy to meet the needs of older people.

Ms O'Sullivan elaborates that participation in daily occupations/activities is a cost effective alternative to conventional medications. She says, 'Many of the behavioural symptoms people with dementia exhibit stem from frustration and a sense of uselessness or incompetence. Opportunities for engagement in occupations are a means of addressing the cause of the behaviour''.

Training for care-staff should focus on developing respectful relationships and practical strategies to engage people in daily activities that enhance and maintain physical and mental capacities. This means having something to do, having carers that do things with people - and not for them, and having choices such as when to eat, what to wear and when to have a shower. It means living in an environment that is accessible, homelike, and with familiar objects that a person can interact with.

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