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Covid-19: Weldmar’s Allied Health Professionals continue their specialist care on the front line

Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy remain core services still being delivered through Covid-19

The Allied Health Professionals at Weldmar Hospicecare are continuing to provide physiotherapy and occupational therapy to those patients who need their services in Dorset, despite the Covid-19 crisis.  They are helping patients at our Inpatient Unit in Dorchester, and those who are cared for at home in the community.

The role of the Allied Health Professionals team is to enable and empower people, with an emphasis on living well and being as independent as possible for as long as possible.  Their role in palliative care is to enable patients to do everyday activities such as getting in and out of bed safely, walking safely and advising on and providing any equipment required.  They also provide specialist advice for complex needs and symptom management such as non pharmacological breathlessness management.

Occupational therapy and physiotherapy team. Part of Weldmar's Allied Health ProfessionalsAs members of Weldmar’s Multi-Disciplinary Team, they bring a holistic approach to patient care, aiming to help people have a good quality of life – which is a key part of palliative care.

Clare Bradbury is AHP Lead at Weldmar, and says working within the Covid-19 guidelines has been challenging, but they have found means of achieving this.  “We are maintaining social distancing wherever we can, and wearing our PPE, but as therapists we do often have to get close up.  This is particularly important with regards to moving and handling, and where safety of the patient needs to be maintained, then social distancing is not possible”.

“We are doing essential visits, much like the Weldmar Community Nurses. We will do as much as we can over the telephone, or by using video conferencing technology such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. For me, that has been quite a challenge, because when you can only hear someone on the phone, you can miss a lot of the visual cues that are so useful, so we’ve had to adapt how we do things. Certainly my IT skills have developed!”

Breathlessness management is a particular area of expertise at Weldmar, and is one of the areas where the team have needed to adapt to help patients over the phone and using various technologies. Clare says, “There are quite a few recognised online resources that we can draw on.  During this period we have learnt a lot about other ways of delivering our breathlessness management service, using these online tools.”

Allied Health Professionals with PPE at Weldmar's Inpatient UnitOn the Inpatient Unit, the AHP team continue to ensure a safe discharge for patients who are able to go home with interventions such as moving and handling assessments, pain management, provision of mobility aids, discharge planning.  That’s also something that has changed with Covid-19, as it’s been more challenging to source certain items that need to be delivered to community patients, or those who are being discharged from the IPU.

Occupational Therapist  Charmaine Davies says, “For me, I find this very challenging!  I have chosen to work in the area of Palliative Care as I want to provide every inch of my compassion, warmth and provide comfort to my patients. Wearing a face mask changes this as it makes things it less personal. I just hope that my eyes are still smiling and the compassion and warmth is still coming through.  Failing that I could always draw a smile on my mask :-)…

“I apologised to a patient for wearing the mask and assured him I was still smiling behind it. The patient replied “not to worry, your compassion and warmth is evident in your voice.  That was a nice thing to hear whilst you are entering a patient’s home with full PPE.”

The Allied Health Professionals Team works closely with Rose Elliott, MND Nurse Specialist (Motor Neurone Disease).  MND is the only condition where Weldmar is involved from the point of diagnosis.

“I’m really, really proud of the whole team,” says Clare.

“They have been amazing. They have embraced the changes they’ve had to make in our practices, they’ve found good ways to put people at ease when they’re coming to visit them. One of the things we’ve found difficult is seeing patients for the first time, wearing PPE face masks, so we have had to be particularly reassuring when we first introduce ourselves, particularly in their own homes. Like many healthcare professionals we are needing to adapt our communication skills in order to compensate for not being able to show a reassuring smile.

“There’s a lot of crossover between physiotherapists and occupational therapists roles at this time in order to minimise the amount of face to face contact where possible. We liaise a lot with other services who look after these patients too, such as Dorset Wheelchair Services, the Community Rehab teams. All services are needing to operate in slightly different ways due to the restrictions, meaning we have to keep up to date with their changes as well.”

“I would like to say what a privilege it is to work for Weldmar Hospicecare, working closely with the whole team delivering palliative care services to our Weldmar community.”

Whilst our care continues on the front line, we need your help now more than ever before, because our charity shops have closed and fundraising events have been cancelled.  We have launched an urgent Covid-19 Appeal – find out more here.

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