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Occupational Therapy and Mental Capacity

Care in the home: young lady helping older woman with walking sticks

In Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, we meet the main character Moist von Lipwig as he tries to dig his way out of prison using a broken spoon. Just when he thinks he’s about to reach freedom, von Lipwig discovers that it isn’t the end at all, and that someone has hidden a brand-new spoon for him inside the wall in order that he carry on digging. This is because Lord Vetinari likes to provide ‘Occupational Therapy’ to all his inmates!

While Terry Pratchett’s wonderful satire doesn’t paint Occupational Therapy (OT) in a wholly positive light, though very entertaining, it does give some small insight into the sort of ‘purposeful activity’ that can be used to aid recovery, support identity and help people maintain cognitive and physical function.

Understanding Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy is a complex and dynamic intervention that takes into account a whole range of factors including, but not limited to, the person’s motivations, their environment, their physical and mental health, and the support available to them. It is an OT’s role to work alongside the person in order to identify and overcome barriers to engagement, empowering them in their activities of daily living (ADLs) by applying one of more models of practice and research evidenced methodologies.

Indeed, a good OT can improve lives and save money. They do this by providing input that takes into account the whole person, assessing risks, providing equipment, aiding adjustments, retraining skills, signposting to support services and making person-centred goals to support recovery. This helps the provider to monitor progression with measurable outcomes, while also supporting safe discharges and improving the continuity of care. It also helps recovery and reduces the risk of readmission.

Professional skills in practice

Occupational therapists are well placed to work in the field of mental capacity. This is because the very ethos of the OT is to support the individual to participate and engage, through graded tailored support, providing person-centred care. This aligns with the second principle of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) that states:

An individual must be supported to make a decision, if needed, including but not limited to the provision of information, verbal and visual adaptations, specialist referrals etc.

As a qualified OT myself, I apply my professional skills in each and every service that we provide, whether it be our training, mental capacity assessments or consultancy. Indeed, I take pride in applying principles of Therapeutic Use of Self, alongside graded and adaptive tools to enable participation and support capacity therefore upholding rights.

I have a huge sense of pride that the original Court of Protection Form 3 (COP3) specifically named our profession as being appropriate to conduct mental capacity assessments. Meanwhile, in the newly revised COP3 forms, we remain recognised under broader headings of ‘health or social care professionals’ – for which we arguably fall under both.

For more details on our experience, and to find out how we can support you and your team, please get in touch.  

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