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I’m An OT – And I Found It Difficult Getting The Care My Parents Needed

I’m an OT – and I found it difficult getting the care my parents needed

I’m an OT – and I found it difficult getting the care my parents needed

I know a lot about the Central Coast and Newcastle, but very little about what services are accessible in Wellington (NSW). When dad’s lung cancer (the aggressive kind) was first diagnosed, mum and dad managed well. And although previously they had been seeing a private OT, I felt this time I wanted to be the OT in their lives. Surprisingly, they gratefully accepted my recommendations and advice … well mostly.

I used my environmental OT skills to make sure that dad would be comfortable and avoid any avoidable mishaps/falls. All his children contacted him by phone regularly and visited whenever possible. Some of the OT-type, home environment/fall prevention strategies I set up included:

  • a good sturdy, height-appropriate chair with arms for energy efficient and safe transfers.

    • It is amazing how much unnecessary energy and effort is spent just getting into or out of an ill-fitting chair.

  • temporary hi-vis strips to all the threshold steps within the home.

    • This is especially useful in my parents’ place where sunlight was deemed the enemy in summer.

    • The house (though cool according to mum) was also dark. Threshold steps leading to the bathroom were complemented by a self-adhesive night light that could be angled towards the step edge but out of their eyes.

I also recommended:

  • A forehead touch-sensitive thermometer (designed for babies who can’t hold a thermometer in their mouth) so mum could just swipe dad’s head with minimal inconvenience to check his temperature.

  • This particular thermometer is excellent for those who are unsure of what a normal temperature is or who have sight impairments. The thermometer is colour coded, Red equals emergency ward. Orange is high temp. Blue is normal temp.

  • Multiple hand sanitisers in every room to decrease risk of infection

  • A jug marked with prompts to ensure dad kept up his fluids throughout the day and decrease the risk of dehydration and maintain his fluids/nutrition when appetite is poor.

  • Referral to a diabetic nurse to visit regularly, ensuring cancer medications did not interfere with his insulin intake. ‘Hypos’ were a high risk – which of course equals falls risks.

  • A bath board was less appreciated in the beginning but was apparently ‘a “God-send” when mum was trying to manage dad’s shower over bath transfers later on.

  • Light weight thermal underwear as dad felt the cold terribly and blankets would usually slip or not be practical when walking around – heavy bulky clothing is also uncomfortable when sitting lounging or sleeping.
  • Lastly, I ensured that dad had a good quality pressure care cushion to sit on which decreased the risk of skin breakdown as his weight dropped and he became more sedentary.

Mum assured me that she would more than manage and declined full time help. I had a full time job and family commitments of my own, so I reluctantly left Wellington and drove back to Newcastle. Mum continued to decline help when I called, but I could hear in her voice that things were not as easy as she made out. She sounded very tired.

Because I worked for NSW Health in the community. I knew that community health services could be tapped into but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Luckily Wellington is a small town and everyone new mum and dad. I contacted the co-ordinator at Wellington Community Health Centre and asked for referrals to community nursing to check in on mum and dad to make sure they were managing.

The community nurse and a diabetic nurse would pop in on mum and dad once a week. This gave the family who felt ‘very far away’ some peace of mind. I would ring up the co-ordinator once a week and between nurses’ visits, family phone calls and short visits, we could all take a breath and a break, reassured that all was ok. Well at least for a while.

We were lucky, I had a little insight into how community services worked and the co-ordinator knew mum and dad, so a bit of the usual protocol was bypassed. My health background enabled me to ask mum and dad the right types of questions to gauge what issues they may be facing now or may face in the future so, I could address them.

Our family still experienced the usual stress, uncertainty and frustration that came from having parents who are ill or experiencing reduced function, especially being so far away. I was so appreciative of my OT background – but it did get me thinking….

How do other families manage, with no insight into available services or health background? How much harder would it be? How unfair it is? It was at this time that the seed was planted that eventually grew into it takes a Village.

I believe that information is valuable and worth sharing. For those children living out of Newcastle, the information sourced from it takes a Village will enable them to identify what services are available and how they go about setting them up for their parents. If they are not able to visit their parents as often as they would like, as it takes a Village’s community Occupational Therapist, I can provide home visits, face-to-face support and therapeutic interventions. I can listen to, and be there for their parents and address each issues if and when it arises.

I truly believe that knowledge is power and good decisions cannot be made without it. I also believe that everyone has the right to make their own decisions, whether good or bad, but only if they are aware of and understand the potential positive and negative consequences of their actions.

Want to learn more about the benefits of OT ……. keep an eye out for my monthly Blogs…. or contact me @[email protected]

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