A study was done in 2006 that aimed to identify the interpersonal and environmental characteristics for the best substitute living environment (ie. a nursing home), as perceived by residents and their families. As a result 11 life quality indicators were identified by the participants. The number one life quality characteristic was feeling being respected by the caregivers as an individual. The second one was being involved in relationships and the third was clearly linked to our work as occupational therapists: perceived competency trough technical (nursing) acts and attitudes.
Based on this study occupational therapy in nursing homes and similar substitute living environments should be focused on enabling opportunities for self-actualization and a continuing sense of identity. The practical methods are multiple and may vary depending on the home and the therapists, but as an occupational therapists working in an some kind of substitute living environment (an acute hospital which is very limited by it’s possibilities) I’ve found that some of the tools for nourishing these characteristics might be:
- using a narrative to explicate the occupational history of a client and to validate his/her life experience. A narrative also broadens the picture of the client from a mere patient to a whole human being and might help the staff to understand his/her behaviour and preferences better. A narrative, in my experience, is a powerful tool for empowerment.
- creating possibilities in participating in occupations as a viewer, if nothing else. As the studies show, also observing others to perform strengthens a person’s sense of occupational competence.
What are functional methods and practices in your experience? Please post any ideas to comments.
The study can be found at The Canada’s Occupational Therapy Resource Site.
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