Is occupation missing from occupational therapy in palliative care?

Research paper by Sharon S Keesing, Lorna L Rosenwax

Indexed on: 01 Oct '11Published on: 01 Oct '11Published in: Australian Occupational Therapy Journal


The role of occupational therapists in palliative care is largely undocumented in Western Australia (WA). Little is known about the services occupational therapists provide or the needs of people who are dying and their carers in relation to these services. The aims of this study were as follows. First, to determine the number of occupational therapists employed and the range of services they provide in palliative care in WA. Second, with particular reference to self care, leisure, productive roles and occupations, to explore the daily experiences of people who were dying as well as their primary carers to determine the services that might be offered by occupational therapy to this population.Semi-structured interviews were used to gather information from carers (n=10 metro, n=4 rural) and occupational therapists (n = 13 metro, n = 5 rural). Data were analysed qualitatively using grounded theory to develop categories. Themes were defined using the constant comparison method.Four themes emerged that impacted people who were dying and their carers. These were; ongoing disengagement from usual activities with resultant occupational deprivation; disempowerment of both people who are dying and their carers within palliative care services; 'occupation' not being addressed adequately in palliative care, and occupational therapists experience frustration with limited opportunities to contribute to the care of people who are dying.This paper highlights gaps in service provision in WA to people who are dying and their carers. It provides direction for occupational therapists to offer an occupation-focussed approach to the care of this vulnerable group.