Occupational therapy involvement in interdisciplinary palliative care for individuals with dementia
Gross, Libby Ann
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BACKGROUND: Given the rapidly aging population and the prevalence of individuals with dementia residing in long-term care facilities (LTCFs), some settings have adopted palliative approaches to care to promote optimal resident quality of life (QOL). One program, Comfort Matters®, provides interdisciplinary training and accreditation for their comfort-focused care program. However, in many of their accredited facilities, occupational therapy (OT) is not a consistent member of the palliative care team. Therefore, the goal of this project was to facilitate occupational therapy involvement in an existing interdisciplinary palliative care team for individuals with dementia at an LTCF. METHODS: A needs assessment was completed at a Comfort Matters® accredited site in Brooklyn, NY. The needs assessment included interviews and focus groups with relevant staff and families, observations of rehabilitation and the dementia-specific unit, visits to other accredited sites for Comfort Matters® training and observation, and a record review of OT services provided to residents with dementia. OUTCOMES: The needs assessment highlighted several barriers to OT participation in Comfort Matters®, which lead to two main outcomes: (1) more specific guidelines for what OT could contribute to a palliative care team and (2) recommended facility actions that have the potential to promote OT integration into Comfort Matters®. The outcomes and recommendations were presented to administrators at the facility in the hopes that implementing them would provide benefits for the residents, employees, and facility.