What is the occupational therapy role in end of life care?
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are not many occupational therapists really across the country working in hospice. Hopefully we will see this change. As the Affordable Care Act continues to have an impact, I think it will open many doors for us to be a part of that team and focus on quality of life to decrease healthcare costs. Typically once the person is transferred to hospice, they usually say, “OT, we don’t need you anymore." We really have to market our services and advocate for our expertise with pressure care, pain management, functional mobility, adaptive equipment, etc. It is also important to have research to back that up. Perhaps we are not in there every week, but OT could be involved in the end of life care at a consulting level.
With regards to transitioning to a career of OT in hospice, I think there are a couple of great ways to do this. First, if you can get into a home health agency that has a hospice side and if you can just go ahead and market yourself there. make a big impact of you’re an OT. You’re doing a great impact and then say, “I like to do a pilot program and continue to work with my client that was discharged from OT and moved into hospice.” Do some research and then bring it back to your executive director say, “Here’s what the outcomes were. Let’s go with another patient.” I think it is a wonderful opportunity to do research or connect to a university. I would be happy to talk with you more.