Bigger and Better: VHA Occupational Therapists join Palliative Care Team
The palliative care team in the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) area has expanded to now include Occupational Therapists (OTs). “I really think this is a wonderful initiative,” says VHA Toronto Central Regional Manager, Sandra Tedesco. “OT insights and expertise help us quickly handle equipment issues and help our clients (i.e. patients), especially those who are receiving longer-term palliative services, live as comfortably and independently as possible. The OTs I’ve talked to love being part of huddles and feel they’re making a real difference.” OTs are also well positioned to support clients with meaningful activities that add value and purpose until the client’s death.
Since June 2018, VHA has been actively delivering an integrated model of care in the Toronto Central LHIN. Before, these care teams included the client’s doctor, home care nurse(s) and personal support worker(s). But teams found that problems with equipment weren’t easily addressed and referrals for an OT visit took time. “Toronto Central LHIN stepped up with the idea and our OTs were quick to volunteer to be part of this initiative. It’s a great chance for them to join forces and be part of a team that really takes a holistic approach to palliative care to ensure the best possible journey.”
“My father died at home after two decades of Parkinson’s disease,” notes VHA OT Colleen O’Toole, when asked why she was quick to step up to be part of the palliative care team. “The last month of his life he had palliative home care and it ended with a very peaceful death at home, surrounded by family. It was a gift, both for him and for us.
I credit much of that to the expertise of the team coming in and making him feel as comfortable as possible and helping us feel capable of doing this for him because we had their guidance.”
Being part of an integrated team, Colleen adds, really helps to open up the lines of communication between the team and with clients, respecting wishes and avoiding any confusion. It also helps proactively address issues that arise, because, as Colleen notes, “…situations can change rapidly. If I can have any part in giving back by easing someone’s death, or providing some care for the family in their grief, I consider myself pretty lucky.”