As well as experiencing physical difficulties, many patients, especially the elderly, suffer with anxiety of some form. Here are 5 tips for OTs to help reduce stress and worry in their patients.
The majority of an OT’s work is dealing with patients who have physical disabilities or difficulties, helping them manage these and hopefully live a more fulfilling life. But it is also important to be aware of some of the mental health difficulties that patients may face. Many patients, especially older people, suffer from anxiety and helping deal with this can often improve their quality of life as much – if not more – than simply aiding them with their physical condition. Here are five ways that OTs can help reduce their patients’ anxiety.
A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
Very often all it takes to make a patient feel better about something they are worried about is the chance to talk about it. In a busy hospital environment, or even in a home setting where an OT has other appointments to attend to during the day, the focus can be on the physical tasks and monitoring that needs to be completed. Taking a moment to listen to a patient and let them express their worries can help clear their mind of their concerns. Make it a habit to ask questions like ‘how are you feeling today?’, that give them the space to air any concerns.
Be Aware of your Impact
The way we carry ourselves has a bigger impact on those around us than we often realise. Think about how you feel when a colleague, friend or family member enters a room visibly stressed or angry – we immediately pick up on it, wonder if it’s our fault and feel tense ourselves. While it may be difficult not to feel the stress of the profession, presenting a calm, cheerful front to patients will only have a positive effect on their wellbeing. So smile. Speak slowly and calmly. Adopt positive body postures. And observe the difference it makes on your patients.
Communicate Clearly Throughout
Anxiety is often born from fear of the unknown, so the more we can explain to our patients about what is happening the better. During any procedure or check it helps to inform patients of what you are about to do and why, then provide a step-by-step account as you carry out the procedure. Anxious patients will feel much more reassured when they understand what is happening to them.
Demonstrate Calming Techniques
If a patient becomes extremely anxious our first reaction is often to tell them to ‘calm down’. If you have ever tried this with an anxious person you will know that it doesn’t work. Much more effective is to demonstrate techniques that will help calm them down, and encourage them to join you. For example you might tell them to take long, slow breaths and count them through these as you perform the exercise yourself.
Is there anything about the patient’s environment that is adding to their anxiety and if so, can you change it? If they sit in a room next to a noisy street, can they be moved to an alternative room? If lots of family and friends are in the room at once, is this a but too overwhelming? Sometimes making the environment more calming is as simple as dimming the lights or arranging flowers on a mantelpiece. Whenever you are working with a patient, be aware of any small environmental factors that you could change to help make them calmer.