The Changing Face of Occupational Therapy in Aged Care

We sat down with Michael Lee Centre, Occupation Therapist, Wey Chan this week to talk about her role at Meath Care and why she chose to work in aged care.

Wey explained that occupational therapy in aged care is all about helping individuals with reduced abilities to carry out the important, meaningful, everyday activities that we take for granted.

The term “occupation” in occupational therapy refers to the things people do to occupy their time. This includes essential activities like self-care, learning, working and fun activities like leisure.

Wey is passionate about expanding the choices of leisure activities in aged care. Over the past few years, she has noticed changing trends in the lifestyle activities of different generational groups.

“Occupational therapists need to start looking at a wide variety of options beyond bingo for aged care residents. Technological innovation and social advancements are changing the aged care landscape rapidly, it makes sense for the therapy and lifestyle team at Michael Lee Centre to meet the changing needs of our residents”.

Wey added, “Compared to preceding generations, Baby Boomers are more comfortable with technology. Most own devices such as smart phones, iPads or computers which can be used to write emails and play games. Many also have social media accounts to keep in touch with loved ones”.

“Our new Michael Lee Centre has a smart TV in each lounge area giving residents access to on-demand video and audio services such as YouTube. This allows personalised options for entertainment which takes into consideration the residents’ cultural, social and personal backgrounds. For example, if someone grew up on a farm, they may enjoy watching things farm-related. Or they can choose to watch programmes from their homeland in their native language. It’s a great way to stay connected whilst adding more meaning to the lives of residents”.

Wey highlighted the importance of having activities available every day of the week.  “We offer plenty of fun and engaging physical activities throughout the week, including the weekends. These include exercise classes, ball games, floor games and walking groups”.

There are numerous benefits for aged care residents engaging in physical activities, which Wey sees first hand. “These activities help to keep them physically active and prolong their quality of life.  Residents can retain their muscle strength and balance through participating in the physical activities that they enjoy. The activities are also great for mental health, they are stimulating and are often carried out in groups which adds the social benefits to these activities.”

Wey always encourages and motivates residents to get involved in these programmes, “Regardless of their age, ability, there is always something for everyone. And it is in our endeavour to help residents engage in the activities that fit them best on a personal level.”

The residents also enjoy fortnightly bus trips to popular destinations around the city. “It’s refreshing to get out and about regularly for a change of scenery.  More importantly, these bus trips enable residents to feel a part of the community. Being able to experience driving through busy streets in the city and connecting with nature when visiting parks gives everyone opportunities to reminisce on fond memories as well as making new ones.”

Wey stresses that it’s a team effort to implement these programmes successfully. She is grateful for the dedicated therapy and lifestyle assistants, who work tirelessly at the Michael Lee Centre to keep programmes running smoothly.

She also appreciates the support of Meath’s long-term volunteers and the volunteers from external organisations like Advocare , who come in to support socially isolated residents and assist with their preferred activities.

“Residents may have families living interstate or overseas so having volunteers come in and spend time with them is extremely valuable. They support the residents with their activities and provide emotional and social support as well as friendship, they develop some strong bonds”.

So why did Wey choose aged care? “I have a very close relationship with my grandparents, and I find joy in helping people. Whilst studying Occupational Therapy, I was inspired by my fieldwork experiences working with many older adults at Alzheimer’s Australia WA and the Aged Care Rehabilitation Unit at a local hospital. So, I decided it was an area I wanted to move into.”

Wey believes that a person’s ability to enjoy life shouldn’t be impeded by their age or disability. She works tirelessly to advocate for the elderly and to challenge ageism, which she thinks is rife in society today.

When asked what she likes about the Michael Lee Centre, Wey said she’s impressed by the modern design of the state of the art building. Each house has a beautifully designed activity room, where various therapy and lifestyle activities can take place.

“I feel that this is in line with Meath Care’s mission, which is “empowering older people to achieve their preferred lifestyle”.

Wey Chan is an Occupational Therapist at Meath Care’s Michael Lee Centre in Como, Western Australia.