What does a Physiotherapy programme look like in Aged Care?

Prior to contracting a Physiotherapist, or as part of your Physiotherapy service review process, you should consider what your goal is in having physiotherapy input.  These should include key values such as Meaningful Outcomes for residents.

We asked Jessie Snowden of On The Go Physio what should felt was important for a Physiotherapy programme to which she offered the following:

For us this means we carry out thorough assessments, find out what is important or meaningful to the resident, their whānau and how this impacts their functioning in the aged care environment. Our input with people can range from rehabilitation to a previous level of function.  This may be intensive physio input for a few weeks, to ensuring someone is safe and comfortable with appropriate seating and pressure care at the end of life (which could be one visit only).

This level of assessment means that you need to ‘budget’ for 40-60 minutes (sometimes longer for complicated admissions) of physiotherapy time for a new assessment and possibly longer if they are needing to make referrals, liaise with other services and family. Follow up visits will be shorter. It is recommended that if you have a set number of hours per week that your staff and the physiotherapist are clear on expectations and priorities. If you only contract 2 hours per week it is not fair to have 10 new assessments on your ‘urgent’ list!

Some facilities have a set standard of 6 monthly reviews of all their residents. Although we do undertake these if asked, it is often more meaningful to use physiotherapy skills for those residents who may improve with input, or who your staff need assistance with due to functional decline. We suggest  if a 6 monthly review is wanted, then the RN is able to carry this out by considering if there have been changes in mobility, falls rates or other physical changes affecting function. If not then your physiotherapy dollar could be better spent on residents with clear rehabilitation needs or declining function.  The key goal here being to optimise mobility and maintain as much independence as possible.

Once the Physiotherapy service is up and running you can expect your physiotherapist to provide a clearly written assessment and a clear treatment plan, including either a discharge comment or a review date. Ideally you will maintain data related to Physiotherapy input and be able to see clearly if your allocated time is meeting the needs of your staff and residents.

Finally consider which residents will be eligible for physiotherapy assessments. If you are funding a Physiotherapy service you may choose to extend this to your hospital level and rest home level of care residents but not to independent studio units/apartments as these residents will usually be eligible for DHB funded services. Some DHBs will happily provide physiotherapy to rest home level of care residents and some put guidelines around who they will see. Depending on your DHB and care philosophy you may choose only to fund Physiotherapy services to hospital level of care residents or to extend this to rest home. In our company we work with aged care facilities who operate under both of these models and the key is to have it clear to both your Physiotherapist and staff who are completing referrals.

Spend your dollar wisely!

A final note here. Physiotherapists are highly skilled healthcare professionals who will be an asset to your team. The days of Physiotherapists spending all their time on walking programmes are long gone and you should set your expectations high for a physiotherapist who will add quality of life to your residents and cost benefit to your organisation. To use your physiotherapist wisely I strongly recommend you have the expectation that your care staff will have time to walk with people who are safe to do so.  We also encourage you to employ or allocate a Physiotherapy assistant hours into your roster to implement Physiotherapy plans. For information on using Physiotherapy assistants please look at an earlier article here .

This article was kindly contributed by Jessie Snowdon – Director of On the Go Physio. On the Go Physio provide physiotherapy services to over 20 facilities in Christchurch and Moving and Handling training to many more facilities and the CDHB.

Maintaining independence – maximising mobility

When it comes to maintaining functional ability for residents whether in a retirement village setting or in an aged residential care facility, the input for a skilled Physiotherapist is a huge advantage in setting up strengths and balance or falls prevention programmes.

Getting in the support of that type of expertise is certainly going to help residents maximise their potential.  Not all professionals are created equal and physiotherapists are no different to other professionals!  How do you go about choosing a Physiotherapist though and what should you check for when selecting the right person to support physical therapy for your residents.

I asked local well know registered Physiotherapist Jessie Snowdon what she thought on this topic.  Here’s what she recommends:

How to choose a physiotherapist for your aged care facility.

Physiotherapists are a key member of the healthcare team in aged care facilities. Having physiotherapy input can improve quality of life for your residents, improve safety and lessen workloads of your care staff. Many physiotherapists are also able to offer moving and handling training onsite as part of their service.  Physiotherapists who are passionate about aged care are usually very special people – so how can you pick them?

This article is written with contracted physiotherapy services in mind but many aspects will apply to employing a physiotherapist directly.

Ask about their experience

In order to meet the varied needs of residents in aged care, physiotherapists need to have a broad clinical background. I would suggest that your physiotherapist should have experience in most of the following clinical areas.  Because this is a long list you should be seeking a physiotherapist with a minimum of 5 years’ experience – or actively supervised by a more senior colleague.

  • Orthopaedics
  • Neurology
  • Dementia (even if not working in a specific dementia facility)
  • Cardiac respiratory
  • Moving and handling
  • Basic seating and wheelchair assessment
  • Falls prevention
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Pain
  • Pressure injury prevention

Ask about their professional development

To maintain registration in New Zealand, a physiotherapist must adhere to The Physiotherapy Board Code of Standards which is available to the general public here. They must also have a minimum of 100 hours CPD per 3 years, show evidence of reflective practice and have one professional peer review per 3 years. At On the Go Physio we require a peer review each year and active ongoing engagement with colleagues and professional development.

It is not uncommon for aged care facilities to directly contract a physiotherapist working as a sole trader. This can be an isolating role for a physiotherapist and it is important they regularly engage in professional development and in supervision and peer review.  If you are employing, rather than contracting, a physiotherapist you will need to budget for this as it is reasonable that you meet these costs.

Eight quick questions when choosing a physiotherapist contractor

As well as the right experience and compliance with physiotherapy regulations, contractor physiotherapists are also businesses in their own right (whether a sole trader or employee of a company) and need to operate as such. These are some legal requirements and compliance issues you should consider.

  1. Ask to see and maintain a copy of their Annual Practicing Certificate (APC – a new one will be issued annually and you should have a copy of this prior to 1st April of each year).
  2. Ask for a copy of their professional indemnity and public liability insurance certificates.
  3. Ask to view their (or their employers) health and safety policy.
  4. Ask if they undertake regular supervision or mentoring to help assure their own professional safety.
  5. Ask them to arrange for a colleague to undertake a clinical notes audit within 3 months of starting in the role and annually following this. Ask for a copy. (You may need to negotiate this and if there will be a cost it would not be unreasonable for you to consider paying this).
  6. How will they cover your facility during periods of leave.
  7. Are they a member of Physiotherapy New Zealand – this is not compulsory but demonstrates a dedication to their profession and provides development opportunities.
  8. What moving and handling training experience do they have? Will they be happy to provide training or will you need to contract those services separately.

 This article was kindly contributed to by Jessie Snowdon – Director of On the Go Physio. On the Go Physio provide physiotherapy services to over 20 facilities in Christchurch and Moving and Handling training to many more facilities and the CDHB.

A further article will follow on how to set up a Physiotherapy service in your facility.

Using physiotherapy assistants in residential care

 

Employing a physiotherapy assistant (PTA) is a fantastic and cost effective way to implement physiotherapy programmes. Many residential care facilities contract in physiotherapy services at an hourly rate, often for only a few hours per week. Supporting this service by having an employee who can accompany the physio on their visit, and then put the exercise programmes in place supports real outcomes for residents.  When I quote for services to residential care facilities I always put a persuasive argument in place for them to appoint a PTA at the same time.

Of concern is that we sometimes visit facilities who have a physiotherapy assistant employed but no contracted physiotherapy hours. Why is this a problem and what are the consequences? The problem lies with the fact that “Physiotherapist” is a legally protected title and to practice in New Zealand you must be registered and hold a practising certificate. If there is any perception that the person is a physiotherapist or is carrying out ‘physiotherapy’ then this is illegal and the fine can be up to $10 000. The key word here is perception. Below are some examples that I have come across where I believe the work was illegal.

– A GP requested a physio assessment of a resident with a sore shoulder. This assessment was carried out by an overseas qualified   physio working as a PTA in a facility;

– A PTA doing exercises with a resident and the family said “she is having her physiotherapy session so we will wait”;

– Staff referring to their physiotherapy assistant as the “physiotherapist” in conversations.

Physiotherapy New Zealand has written guidelines for using a physiotherapy assistant (this covers the term rehab assistant also). The guidelines state that a client must have:

– An assessment by a NZ registered Physiotherapist and a treatment plan;

– Ongoing monitoring of the physiotherapy status and needs of the client.

The physiotherapy assistant must have strict boundaries which include being deemed competent by a supervising physiotherapist, not advancing or changing the treatment plan without written and verbal instruction from the physiotherapist, not offering any advice or opinion (other than reiterating the physiotherapist’s advice). They must have a clear written job description and adequate support. The work they carry out is the responsibility of the supervising physiotherapist which means only the physiotherapist can prescribe treatments which they have observed the physiotherapy assistant. Competency must be confirmed in respect of each individual treatment plan. This even includes simple exercises such as a walking programme.

We also recommend to our facilities that they consider getting a uniform that clearly designates the person as a ‘physiotherapy assistant’ and a name badge with this written. This helps greatly with the problem of other peoples ‘perception’ as already mentioned. We also recommend and provide separate documentation forms for PTAs.

Being a physiotherapy assistant is usually a very rewarding job but can be isolating for staff as they are usually the only one in their facility and often also have hours as a carer. It is good practice to support them with ongoing training and regular supervision with a physiotherapist that is not just focussed on their clinical role.

On the Go Physio offer regular training for physiotherapy assistants including a full day conference later in 2017. To find out more about the pending conference go here and request details.

This article kindly contributed by Jessie Snowdon – Physiotherapist,  founder and director of On the Go Physio. She graduated from Otago University in 1998 and has worked in Christchurch, Edinburgh and London in a variety of roles