Grantham Hospice feature: Therapy helps with living life

Karen Atkin works with a patient at Grantham Hospice. 069D
Karen Atkin works with a patient at Grantham Hospice. 069D

Thirty years after it opened its doors, Grantham Hospice is launching a major new fundraising appeal.

And to help the campaign get off to a successful start, the Journal is running a series of features about the hospice and its vital work.

Last week, we focused on the broad range of services offered by Grantham Hospice, in Barrowby Road, for people with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and/or their carers.

This week, we look more closely at one of the services, day therapy.

No two days are the same for occupational therapist Karen Atkin – and she would not have it any other way. Karen has been working at St Barnabas Hospice for the last eight years and in that time has worked in the community and at the in-patient unit and now works full-time with the day therapy south team.

She said: “My role is to help patients maintain their independence, set realistic goals and help them achieve those goals. I take a holistic approach so I look at the patient as a whole – their environment, their emotional and psychological well-being and their functional abilities. It’s all about treating the patient, not their condition.”

Karen explained that after patients are referred to her she will carry out an initial assessment, looking at how they are coping with their daily living, personal care, meal preparation, home environment and well-being and safety. Following that assessment she will look at a treatment plan.

Karen said: “That might be as simple as ordering the piece of equipment they need. It might also be working on their upper limb mobility, their fine motor skills, their memory problems or emotional state.”

Karen is keen to emphasise the importance of rehabilitation in her role. She said: “Why shouldn’t people live well regardless of their diagnosis, enabling them to remain independent physically and mentally as long as possible?

“It might be really important for some people to be able to wash their own face and brush their teeth, in which case I can find ways of helping.

“It’s all about helping people live with their condition and finding ways to cope.”

As well as helping patients retain their independence, Karen offers a range of creative writing opportunities, helping people to explore thair feelings and emotions.

She recalls one of her success stories. Karen said: “Soon after day therapy opened we had two ladies come to us, both with facial cancers, which caused them both quite a lot of distress. We thought it would be a good idea to let them meet and do some creative writing in the form of collages, looking at how they viewed themselves.

“They became good friends and it allowed them to be open about how they felt and talk about how they and their families were coping.

“One of the pair, who had had facial surgery, was anxious about how she looked and would constantly talk with her hand covering her face. She hadn’t been out for several months and coming to St Barnabas was a very brave step for her.

“After just one session she felt confident enough not only to go to her local shop by herself, but eventually to look in the mirror again – something she hadn’t been able to do for months.

“The two ladies gave each other such strength and it was a real privilege to watch their friendship grow and their confidence return.”

Day therapy is available for anyone over the age of 18 with a life-limiting condition. Occupational therapy is just one of the many services offered.

The service runs every weekday from 8.30am to 4.30pm. For more information, call 01476 513545.