OTs bring creativity to the fore in palliative care

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Sometimes terminally-ill patients can be dismissed from an occupational therapy point of view.

“It’s easy to think ‘oh well, they’re terminal so there’s no point in investing a lot of energy in them,’” says Totara Hospice OT Wendy Wright.

“People facing end of life often can’t engage in an occupation that’s physically demanding but the challenge is to find occupations that they can engage in that don’t take up so much energy, can still give them satisfaction and achievement, and that can also create a memory for family members and friends.”

Occupations that are expressive or creative really come into their own in palliative care, Wendy says, and a growing number of hospices around New Zealand are now employing fulltime OTs to work with end-of-life patients.

“It’s not always realistic to expect somebody to be able to shower or toilet themselves. And often family and friends want to support and help that person do those tasks anyway. But people can still talk, they can still hear, they are still able to voice an opinion and they can still feel.  The challenge is to find ways in which people can participate.”

One of the most rewarding activities Wendy has helped promote in recent years is ‘yarn bombing’ where people knit or crochet little pieces or motifs to decorate objects like trees, lamp posts or walls. Wendy is the inspiration behind the annual Hospice OT Yarn Bombing Challenge which Cubro hosts to celebrate OT Week (24th-30th October). To highlight more of the creative initiatives OTs offer in hospice, this year the challenge has been opened to all creative projects.

“The lovely thing about yarn bombing is that it’s a joint project. If people can’t participate in full, they can do a little bit knowing when they see the finished product, ‘wow! I helped make that.’ It’s an opportunity to work collaboratively with patients, staff, friends of hospice and volunteers and it becomes quite fun. Of course, the earlier you plan it, the more elaborate your installation can be.” says Wendy.

This year’s entry from Totara Hospice is “top secret” but over two dozen people are involved, and work began back in March. This will be the third year the competition has been held.

“We’ve learned from when we did a tree that the weather is not very kind to yarn bombings, especially in Auckland where we get so much rain. Our tree was gorgeous when we first did it and it got very faded, tired and old before too long. We’ve gone for an undercover wall this year,” Wendy reveals.

Entries are photographed and submitted to Cubro for judging, with the winning entry receiving a $200 Prezzy card for their hospice.

Wendy says the yarn bombing installations also aim to draw attention to the valuable role OTs play in palliative care. “Having an OT actually working within a hospice is not the norm but we are increasing in number. The role of an occupational therapist is to support people to do the things that are meaningful and important to them. Working in a hospice setting provides a lot of diversity, opportunities and possibilities.

“A lot of the time we’re supporting people to do bucket list activities and to do things they never had time to do or always wanted to try. Yarn bombing is in itself a form of occupational therapy. It’s about doing, it’s about doing together, it’s about doing what you enjoy, it’s about having a sense of satisfaction, it’s about working towards a goal and being proud of what you’ve achieved.”

Calling all hospices - enter our annual yarn bombing creative challenge and your hospice could WIN!

Enter here