ABC’s of OT: DEATH and DYING

We’re jumping back into this OT Month challenge with a topic that is difficult to discuss but an important reality when working with older adults.

When working in a long-term care setting designed to care for older adults, we sometimes witness drastic medical decline in patients that we closely work with each week. We watch as the life slowly (or sometimes rather quickly) drains away from a patient until suddenly they are gone.

For me, from a spiritual perspective, it is hard to be around people who are so close to death and not always know for sure where their spirit will go. As an occupational therapist, it is not my job to spiritually convert my patients. It is my job to seek out what is meaningful to that individual and do my best to help him or her participate in those meaningful tasks.

But as a Christian who is an occupational therapist, it is my job to surrender each treatment session to God while striving to love and serve each and every patient and their families well.

Experiencing the death of some of my most beloved and memorable patients has shown me how important it is to fully take advantage of each therapy minute. To use each session and each family encounter to be honest, open, and ready to lend a listening ear or helping hand. To put the patient before productivity, to make him or her feel like a human instead of a number or medical diagnosis or dollar sign.

It is our job as the OT to choose to remember that our patients are human. Their families are human. We are all just people who are in desperate need of love.

A full lifetime is never guaranteed. So no matter what population or demographic you work with, remember that you as the OT are here to help people live well. Our goal is to help our patients, our people, live well. And we do that by loving them well, even up to death.

– xo, Allison

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