Palliative care

These days hospices are at the forefront of palliative care but they are not limited to providing medical and nursing care. Occupational therapists are focussed on enabling people through their occupations - the everyday activities people do to occupy time and bring purpose and meaning to life - believing that people have a right to participate in these occupations right up until death. But how is this achieved? and what does it contribute to the lives of people accessing care from New Zealand hospices?

Those approaching end of life benefit from support to engage in activities that are meaningful to them, Lizzie Martin confirms.


Lizzie Martin has family experience of terminal illness, and was aware that participating in even the simplest and smallest of occupations can have an enormous bearing on a person's state of mind and wellbeing. So her dissertation for her Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours), supervised by Jackie Herkt, sought to increase understanding of the role and value of occupational therapy practice in hospices.

 Seven of the 15 occupational therapists practising in New Zealand hospices provided data via two online focus groups. Lizzie also individually interviewed two of these participants. Data was thematically analysed, resulting in the identification of three main themes describing their occupational therapy practice:  identifying needs, addressing occupational needs, working with others. 

Findings revealed occupational therapy practice was largely centred around equipment provision. Therapists were keen to extend their scope of practice to include a greater focus on occupations with special meaning and importance to clients, beyond self-care and physical wellbeing - for example creating legacy objects for family members. Lizzie recommends that occupational therapists can help other health professionals gain a better understanding of the extent of the therapists' role by proactively showcasing their practice.

"I found postgraduate study very rewarding as it was exciting to conduct my own research in an area that I am passionate about. My supervisor was extremely approachable, guiding me through the whole process and supporting me every step of the way."

 Image credit: Ted Van Pelt, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0

December 2017