“Lockdown has been a time for change, both professionally and personally. My role as an Occupational Therapist (OT) is to work with a person and their family to improve their safety and quality of life. This involves completing a thorough assessment of the person’s current abilities. Visits were initially discouraged and alternative methods of assessing our patients were needed. For the first time I completed a virtual OT assessment. This involved the camera freezing and the patient’s husband feeling like a cameraman, but we managed. I realised that virtual assessment could work for some patients but not for others, many of whom did not have the technology or understanding to use it. Where necessary I continued to assess people in their own home using the relevant PPE and patients were grateful of a service and engaged well during this time.
In March 2020, we were examining our current day service care model and had just started a new drop-in service when lockdown was implemented. Our patients previously attended once a week and could access support from nursing, medical and rehabilitation staff, as well as engage with art, complementary therapies etc. Jenny, the hospice physiotherapist, and I were re-deployed and were asked to support and monitor the needs of these patients and their families. This is a role that is normally held by a nurse, so we were being asked to use our skills in a very different way. It was challenging but we learnt a lot and were able to continue to support and care for our patients and their families via telephone contact.
The key to day services is peer support, being able to feel ‘normal’ and be supported to live life. Suddenly this was no longer possible, patients were socially isolated (often to keep them safe), were feeling disconnected and they reported a change in their walking and ability to cope day-to-day.
As a team we wanted to offer more, and by April 2020 we had created a closed Facebook group – the virtual living well hub which offered yoga, coffee chat, education topics around self management and most importantly access to hospice staff.
During this time my daughter also started school, it felt strange dropping her off when we had never met her teacher face to face. She settled well and made friends and was for the most part enjoying school but then things changed again. In January 2021 I was introduced to home schooling for the first time, what an eye opener this was. My partner and I were juggling working full time and supporting online education. My lasting memory of that time is guilt. I always felt I was letting someone down when I was trying to spread myself so thin.
As services were able to open, we arranged care packages, held walking and gardening groups which allowed our patients to engage, remain active and access peer support. The groups remain very small, but patients and their families are getting the care and support they need. We have been challenged in ways that we never expected but it has given us the time to truly look at what our patients and their families want and use this to develop our services.”
Kirsty’s story has been shared in collaboration with the Prince & Princes of Wales Hospice (this link will take you away from our website).