Occupational therapy

What is occupational therapy?

And what can it do for you?

Occupational therapy aims to take a whole-person approach to support both mental and physical health and wellbeing. The term ‘occupation’ refers to any day-to-day activity that allows someone to live independently and have a sense of identity; this could be around self-care, work or leisure tasks.

Occupational therapy works towards a preventive approach to minimise risks and provide support with the aim of adapting routines and environments before people reaching a crisis point.

At Guy’s, our occupational therapy team covers both of the inpatient renal wards. We have also started to provide an outpatient service covering the Astley Cooper dialysis unit and are available to see people in the Kidney Clinic.

We know from patient feedback and experience that starting dialysis is a huge life change and can lead to difficulties in managing daily tasks. Starting treatment can be daunting and people can withdraw from social activities, which can in turn lead to an increase in anxiety and/or depression.

There is a growing body of evidence showing the benefits on health and wellbeing from engagement with the arts. It has been reported that participation in art-based activities—which could include crafts, dance, film, literature, music, singing, cooking and gardening—can help towards managing long-term conditions, the needs of an ageing population, loneliness and mental health problems. Engagement in creative activities has also been shown to improve anxiety, depression and stress, as well as boosting resilience and overall wellbeing.

At Hammersmith hospital, an artist volunteers at the dialysis unit; feedback shows that patients create emotional artworks that can distract from treatment. The experience offers stimulation during dialysis and is a way for patients to express themselves and find a voice. Artwork is displayed around the unit, providing patients with a sense of community and pride in their work. A similar project facilitating participation in activities has also been running at the New Cross dialysis unit for many years. Initiated by Zandria Richards, the project is supported by the GSTT volunteer programme.

Plans are under way to set up an ‘art on dialysis’ programme at Guy’s & St Thomas’ (GSTT). Patients attending Borough Kidney Treatment Centre will be surveyed regarding their interest in participating in creative activities during dialysis and the activities they would like to do. Based on feedback, a proposal will be put forward for volunteer support to initiate activities. If successful, the scheme may then be able to be rolled out to other units.

Occupational therapy has also been expanding its service provision on the Astley Cooper Dialysis Unit. We now provide regular relaxation sessions, fatigue and sleep management support as well as one-to-one therapy assessments and interventions.
Moving into the future, we will be continually looking at how we can build our service across all of our dialysis units. We will also continue to promote the role occupational therapy can play in supporting and improving the lives of dialysis patients.

Lisa Ancliffe
Senior Specialist Occupational Therapist, Renal & Urology, GSTT