Living Life to the Full: Occupational Therapy in Older Peoples Mental Health Services

Published: 13 October 2020

Gill Gregory (OPMH Lead OT), Lucy Wood (OPMH OT)

The Occupational Therapy Team in Older People’s Mental Health Services is a growing service based in inpatient, community and care home services across the Trust working with individuals with dementia, depression, anxiety and long-term mental health problems to overcome barriers that prevent them from doing the activities (or occupations) that matter to them.

Working with the individual (and families or carers) we identify areas of functionality where support or interventions are needed. We use flexibility, creativity and grading of activities to meet the complex needs of the individual. This can optimise individual’s functional performance, increase their sense of wellbeing and improve a patient’s quality of life through a range of interventions.

On Millview Lodge and Maister Lodge, we deliver a range of interventions which aim to maintain or improve individual’s functional abilities throughout their stay to enable swift and appropriate discharge planning. This involves group activities such as cooking, gardening and crafts as well as one to one interventions both on and off the wards tailored to the individual or groups abilities, interests and support needs. We work with the Multi-Disciplinary Team and community partners such as social services and charities, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, Age Concern and MIND, to create person-centred care plans for patients to ensure they receive the equipment and support they need when moving on from hospital. 

In the Hull and the East Riding OPMH teams, we support individuals to make the most of life and continue to keep their independence and manage risks in activities of daily living, leisure, work, social and community participation. Great flexibility is required as each individual has different needs either to maintain independence or enhance quality of life. This could involve learning new ways of thinking, remembering, managing emotions/ anxiety, or doing things, adaptation of the environment, or provision of support. This can help to retain a sense of autonomy, promote self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. We often work with carers, families, social services and charities to build in new routines and methods of adaptation to enable people to stay at home and live life to the full in their circumstances.  Options may include identifying meaningful roles and activities to promote a sense of purpose in life, memory enhancing activities, routines and prompts, maintaining independence or develop skills needed for independent living (such as managing time, money, medication); educating individuals on sleep hygiene, relaxation and self-help techniques; or supporting clients to be safe at home and in the community through compensation or adaptation techniques. This could include evaluating and adapting an environment or task; using visual/verbal prompts; or using technology/equipment.

Within the Care Home Liaison team, we work with residents with dementia or other mental health needs in order to match their cognitive and physical abilities with valuable, meaningful occupations. As well as more general community approaches, creative sensory approaches are used to maintain an individual’s interactions with their social and physical environment to enable them to enjoy a range of experiences. This can help regulate emotions, reducing behaviours that challenge and enhance quality of life and communication between individuals and their carers.


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