PHYSICAL DISABILITY Taking Back Control Alice Bateman, Service Manager at Optalis Occupational Therapy, talks in-depth about the

role of an occupational therapist in supporting people with a disability to live and enjoy their lives as easily and independently as possible.

At Optalis, our main vision as an occupational therapy (OT) service is to empower people with a disability, so they feel confident and able to manage activities in everyday life that are purposeful and meaningful to them.

We support individuals with a wide range of conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and dementia, as well as those who have learning disabilities. Because of this, our support has to be truly personalised and the expertise of our workforce is key to ensuring those we work with are able to meet their objectives. We are fortunate enough to have a rare neurological specialist OT and multiple sclerosis specialist OT and OT assistants to enhance our team’s expertise.

Our occupational therapy service uses a strength-based holistic approach, so that we are able to look at what people can do, rather than what they can’t. To help them reach their goals, we advise and support individuals to find strategies that build on their strength and abilities, using equipment or adapting the environment if required.

A simple example of how our service works would be facilitating safe transfers on and off a person’s toilet, bed or chair; or looking at fatigue management by helping an individual manage their daily routines more efficiently. We work with not only the customer, but also their carers, family, care providers and health service to support this process. Any necessary equipment would also be provided to facilitate the process, as well as adaptations, both major and minor, made to home, work and leisure environments to ensure accessibility.

There is now a wide range of equipment and technology available to help with people’s independence at home and at work. Rise and recliner seating, bath seats, adaptive cutlery, ramps, sensors and even technology such as Alexa are all items that we may use to improve an individual’s quality of life.

It’s also really important to look at the bigger picture when considering our assessments. What are their values? What hobbies or interests do they have? Are they in contact with their family? Do they have a support network? What are their wishes? Looking at the person as a whole will provide a more thorough understanding of the individual and could greatly affect the help we provide.

We are really pleased to be introducing a new approach in adult social care, which will help us to continue to improve the way we respond to individuals and their families. Working with Partners for Change, ‘The Three Conversations’ provides a set of tools to enable our committed, principled and skilled workforce to have conversations based on what people want to tell us, not what we want to ask them. It makes us see

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“Looking at the person as a whole will provide a more

thorough understanding of the individual and could greatly affect the help we provide.”

them as people, reminding us they are oſten part of a family, neighbourhood and community.

There is strong evidence that connecting people to other people and resources in the community is oſten much more effective than a time and task service.

The model focuses primarily on people’s strengths and community assets and supports frontline professionals to have three distinct and specific conversations. These conversations have some golden rules and will ultimately help someone to regain control of their life, as quickly as possible.

It’s early stages for this project but our next step is to start up an innovation site, co-designed by staff, to better understand how it will work in practice.

We are looking forward to finding out if it will revolutionise the way we provide our skills in the near future!

Alice has worked as an occupational therapist for 18 years, starting her career in the NHS working across elderly care, stroke units, rheumatology, medical wards and as service manager for the Wheelchair

Service. She moved to Wokingham Borough Council’s Adult Social Care in 2006, before transferring to the then newly-formed Optalis in 2011.

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