Rehabilitative palliative care in practice

Examples of innovation and good practice in rehabilitative palliative care.

Empowered Living Team Rehabilitation Volunteers

The Empowered Living Team (ELT) is project where volunteers are comprehensively trained and supported to provide rehabilitative support to patients in their own homes. The project was developed in response to a recognised need for providing greater individualised support to patients to help adopt self-management behaviours and embed these with confidence into their daily lives. Due to limited allied health professional resource to provide this level of support in the community setting, the team at St Joseph’s developed an innovative model to utilise volunteers in this role.

How does the model work in practice?

Volunteers undergo a robust recruitment and screening process. They complete three days of training delivered by a multidisciplinary team which includes communication skills, boundaries to role, recognising change in patients’ condition and responding appropriately, alongside practical rehabilitative approaches including safe support of mobility and nonpharmacological symptom management strategies. Patients referred to the service are each assessed by a physiotherapist who formulates an Empowerment Plan for them focused around their personal goals. ELT volunteers work specifically to support this plan, working in partnership with patients on a weekly basis for eight weeks. They have access to telephone support from a palliative care physiotherapist and ELT Facilitator at all times and receive monthly group supervision.

How does this model best support patients’ needs and priorities?

This approach has enabled over 70% of patients to achieve their personal goals – adding significant quality to their lives. Many of these relate to confidence to access the community independently. The ELT has added an essential layer of support to hospice rehabilitation services and trends indicate it supports reduced utilisation of hospital and healthcare services. The ELT approach is a successful example of the use of volunteers in the community setting and of considered and supported risk in action. The ELT illustrates how just the right amount of rehabilitative support can make all the difference to enable patients to take back control and manage their own health and wellbeing.

Matthew Wheatley, Specialist Palliative Care Physiotherapist, St Joseph’s Hospice

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