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Occupational therapy and the late effects of polio


Delegates to Occupational Therapy Australia’s (OTA) National OT Aged Care Symposium have been told of the challenges involved in the care and management of up to 400,000 polio survivors in Australia, many of whom are unaware how a history of polio may affect their health status.

Mr Paul Cavendish, a clinical health educator at Polio Australia, said the neurodegenerative condition has a number of key features for health professionals to consider, particularly with an ageing population.

“A history of polio involves two key challenges for health professionals,” Mr Cavendish said.

“Firstly, a long period of dynamic stability where patient, family and health professionals scale back the significance of a polio history which subsequently may emerge with symptoms of muscular weakness, fatigue, pain and respiratory issues. Secondly, a mild case of polio, often not considered at any point in time as significant to someone’s health, will become more important to consider as the individual ages.

“An occupational therapist will need skills in how to appropriately facilitate strategies to maintain independence and social inclusion, along with understanding how to manage functional decline,” he said.

Mr Cavendish explained how polio affects the neuromuscular and skeletal systems, and provided an assessment framework and referral considerations based on practical questions and methods to identify how an occupational therapist can help improve, or facilitate the maintenance of, functional independence.

Delegates learned of evidence-based assessment protocols, risk factors related to loss of independence and falls, and the psycho-social considerations involved in addressing functional decline with polio survivors.

More than 200 delegates have gathered at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to discuss the work they do to enrich the lives of older Australians. Under the slogan “Respect, Relate, Renew”, the symposium offers delegates the opportunity to share evidence based information and to consider the changing aged care landscape, particularly the introduction of Consumer Directed Care and new service delivery models.

The symposium runs from 22 to 23 February.

Media Contact
Michael Barrett | Government, Media and Public Relations
0403 795 505

About Occupational Therapy Australia
Occupational Therapy Australia is the national professional association representing occupational therapy in Australia. We offer opportunities for our members to enhance best practice through professional development, support, and access to profession-specific information.

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