How occupational therapy helps change lives

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.
Neil and his family

Claire Dudbridge, 39, is an Occupational Therapist (OT) at ellenor in Gravesend. She supports patients and families living with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Dementia, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis within the local community. 

She works as part of a multi-disciplinary team – including nurses, physiotherapists, doctors and complementary therapists – across varied settings including the patient’s home, the Inpatient Unit and the day hospice as well as working closely with local GP’s, community nurses, local hospital and other community and charity services. Her aim is to support patients to live their lives the way they want to live their lives and provide them with the best and most comfortable life possible.

Through a structured process of assessment and goal setting with the patient and their family Claire evaluates the needs of the patients and helps them adapt to their changing ability levels – importantly, to remain as independent as possible, enhancing a sense of wellbeing and control and do the things they want to do. Here she explains how.

“A palliative diagnosis can be stressful not just for the patient but for the whole family. Not only is there the natural distress associated with the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis but there may well be additional non-medical stress. We want to help our patients maintain their independence in activities that are important to them. That may involve anything from showering by themselves, getting in and out of bed independently, shaving, going back to work or seeing friends. Over time, those goals will change as the patient’s health declines but we want them to keep doing as much as they can for as long as possible – and that’s how I support them. To help them do everyday things that are important to them and which also make a big difference for them and their carers.

“I’m here to help reduce patients or families’ anxiety by helping them manage their symptoms as well as assessing the support available to them. We take steps to address any gaps in service provision which could be from equipment being supplied, rehabilitation programmes implemented, home adaptations in improving quality of life or assistance with more complex issues such as housing needs.”

Neil, 42, was introduced to ellenor when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Married with two young children, he was admitted to ellenor’s inpatient unit at the hospice for pain management in Dec 2019 and referred to ellenor’s Occupational Therapy service in January 2020 for support with appropriate housing.

Before his palliative diagnosis, the family were living with Kelly’s father and his then fiancée. As Neil was no longer able to work, they could no longer buy a house and registered onto the council list for better housing.

Neil’s wife Kelly says: “ellenor have been amazing in helping with my husband’s pain and making it possible for him to be able to come home to us with all the adaptions and equipment that they did.

“We were living in overcrowded conditions and struggling with a lack of space and privacy. My husband couldn’t manage the stairs, so he was sleeping in the lounge on a hospital bed with the only toilet being upstairs.

“The coronavirus pandemic put our rehousing on hold, and with everything else going on, increased our stress and anxiety. Claire and ellenor’s family support team were amazing, they continued to contact the council until we were rehoused into a property suitable for our family circumstances – a 3-bedroom house with stair lift and wet room and lovely gardens in front and back. They helped with making adaptations to our home and provided Neil with the essential equipment he needed, and we moved into the house in May.

“They were there at our lowest, when we needed them most. With ellenor’s help we were able to deal with the situation and we never felt alone. We are extremely grateful for everything”.

For more information visit ellenor