OT Students Connect With Seniors via Telehealth Visits

While the Coronavirus is limiting face-to-face interaction in health sciences courses, Dominican’s occupational therapy students learned to connect with local senior citizens via telehealth visits.

Gina Tucker-Roghi, PhD, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy, had originally planned in-person meetings between her OT students and clients of Marin Villages, a community non-profit organization that uses a network of volunteers to empower older adults to be active, connected and independent at home.

The students’ assignment was to collaborate with Marin Villages members to create individual “Personal Life Profiles.” The “Personal Life Profile” captures essential information about an individual’s habits, routines, cultural identity, lifelong preferences, and values. This important document will be designed to serve as the Marin Villages member’s voice if he or she is hospitalized and unable to make their needs and preferences known. A personal life profile can outline preferences while also helping care providers talk with their patients about familiar and enjoyable topics that generate a sense of well-being.

As many as 50% of older adults who are hospitalized experience delirium, which causes older adults to suddenly experience altered cognition, attention and awareness. Research shows that reorienting patients, addressing sensory impairments and providing opportunities for movement and meaningful activities are effective measures to prevent and manage delirium. However, healthcare providers in hospitals have often never met the patient they are caring for and the “Personal Life Profile” will provide them with important information that can be used to personalize care.

When Dominican moved all instruction online due to the shelter-in-place directive, Tucker-Roghi quickly adapted her coursework so the work could continue uninterrupted. Each OT student and Marin Villages member will participate in a series of three 45-minute telephone calls or video conferences in order to develop a personal life profile.  Peter Lee, the Director of Marin Villages, saw the value of this project for the Marin Villages members and helped coordinate the transition.

Tucker-Roghi joined the Board of Directors of Marin Villages last November as part of her work as a Geriatric Academic Career Award (GACA) recipient. The GACA award is a four-year, $300,000 award, which is funded by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The "Personal Life Profile" project is funded by this grant and Dominican is the first institution to receive the award for occupational therapy.

Tucker‐Roghi specializes in the occupational needs of clients with dementia. She has developed an abilities‐ based OT intervention program for clients with dementia, and teaches OT practitioners to meet the occupational needs of clients with dementia. The GACA grant funds the development of resources and training opportunities for occupational therapists who serve older adults with dementia in healthcare facilities and the community. 

“I am excited about the opportunity for our seniors to use their personal life profile to advocate for their own “Age Friendly Healthcare,” Tucker-Roghi says.

Through this project, students learned how to apply an “occupational profile” which is an essential part of the OT process, to a real and pressing need for older adults who are at risk for delirium if they are hospitalized. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of this project grew exponentially.

“I wanted to make sure that rich student learning will remain at the heart of the program,” Tucker-Roghi says.

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