As New Zealand’s population continues to age and members of the baby boomer generation begin to move into retirement, the quality of care offered by residential homes for the elderly has become an increasingly topical issue.
This is particularly the case for occupational therapists, says Otago Polytechnic Occupational Therapy lecturer Linda Robertson. Occupational therapists play a vital role in the residential home environment, facilitating activities, assisting with daily living skills and helping to ensure that residents continue to live engaged and meaningful lives.
“There is very little reference to different types of rest homes in the literature, and yet the services on offer and the overall culture differ significantly from home to home.”
Robertson joined forces with Ruth Fitzgerald from the University of Otago, designing a qualitative study based on interviews with staff from two New Zealand residential homes: one that prides itself on a hotel-like ambience, and a more traditional, ‘homely’ residence.
In the hotel-like home, she says, a high level of care was equated with efficiency and high-quality service, whereas the traditional home was more focused on establishing homeliness through recognising the individual histories of residents and blurring boundaries between the home and the community.
“For occupational therapists, it highlights the importance of understanding the culture you’re working within, whether or not it suits your personal preferences, and making the most of the opportunities that exist within it.”
‘The conceptualisation of residential home environments: implications for occupational therapy’, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2010, 73(4) 170-177.