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Posted on Jan 31 2022 by Fiona Bailey

An Occupational Therapist with more than 20 years’ experience working in mental health has spoken of the importance of ‘personhood’ when it comes to treating older patients.

Sarah Hayes is part of the Neuropsychiatry Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) at the Northampton site of St Andrew’s.

The team, which also supports patients in Essex and Birmingham support older people with a mental health diagnosis or a neurodegenerative condition who also have complex physical health and mobility needs.

Speaking in the latest Service Spotlight video, she said: “The challenge that we have is to remember this person that is beneath the physical and the mental health and the cognitive impairment to get to know who that person was underneath.

“It's the sense of ‘personhood’ and recognising that we need to get into the individual’s world.”

The Older Adult services at St Andrew’s draw from a range of specialisms within the MDT to help  treat complex mental health conditions while also supporting the physical healthcare needs that are a key consideration when supporting older patients.

Sarah said: “As we get older we know that our bodies become less robust from a physical perspective and there are lots of barriers that our bodies give us to stop us from doing what it is that we want to do.

“So what we need to do as occupational therapists, particularly when working with those with the degenerative conditions such as dementia, is look at promoting or sustaining people’s level of ability for as long as possible and we do this by compensating and providing equipment for everyday living.

“There is nothing more satisfying than assessing someone for a bespoke wheelchair and when you get them sitting in that wheelchair; you get them sitting at a table and their faces and their whole demeanour it changes because they can sit at a table and they can enjoy the meal that they have or they can enjoy even watching television.

“I think that's where the greatest joy is, using equipment to be able to promote how somebody interacts with the world around them.”

To watch Sarah’s interview in full, click here.