17th November 2020
For Occupational Therapists working with older adults, the COVID-19 restrictions had a huge impact on everything that they consider essential to maintaining good mental and physical health, according to Claire Matthews, Senior Occupational Therapist, Sharon McMorrow, Occupational Therapist; and Sharon Cawley, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Liscarney House in Sligo.
“Everything moved online - school, college, shopping, fitness. However, due to the broadband challenges and the fact that almost 50% of adults between 65 and 74 years had never used the internet, we knew that ‘going online’ with our service was not a feasible option in the short-term. We quickly realised that our delivery options for providing Occupational Therapy input to our clients were An Post and telephone,” according to Sharon McMorrow.
The Occupational Therapists identified an activity pack that was being used in The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook to support patients who were isolated as in-patients, and decided to adapt this idea (with permission), to develop a home-based activity pack. With that, Project Postbox was born.
“The focus of these packs was to support our service users to maintain a routine while cocooning, and to achieve a balance between the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure. The packs contain blank timetables, recipes, exercises, nature activities, quizzes and resources such as radio shows and YouTube tutorials. We included items such as hand creams and herbal teas to really encourage recipients to engage in the suggested self-care tasks.”
All packs served as an add on to telephone-based interventions and support from each service-user’s OT. Packs were developed and individualised based on feedback and each service-user’s unique needs. For example, the text was made darker and the URLs were shortened following initial feedback from the first pack. The frequency at which service users received packs was also tailored to each person’s needs. Packs were further adapted to better meet the needs of people with a diagnosis of dementia.
These packs were again adapted by in-patient services to support activity while social distancing on the ward and as part of discharge packs.
“Feedback from service users has been overwhelmingly positive. The majority of service users found that the packs were useful, particularly in supporting them to maintain a routine and to stay active during the cocooning period. Service users overwhelmingly identified the nature activities as the aspect of the pack that they enjoyed the most, which is a point that we will consider when developing similar interventions in future. Self-care and quizzes were also noted as popular aspects of the packs,” said Sharon.
Together Apart and Hold Firm
To complete the Project Postbox series, as lockdown came to a close, the OTs asked service users and staff to engage in small creative crafts under the themes of ‘Together Apart’ and ‘Hold Firm’.
“We sent pattern ideas, templates, wool and needles/hooks to support people to contribute. Several creative pieces have been returned to us and this project was collated by service users who attended the Day Hospital.”