Sharon, one of our home care workers, works holistically with the family, developing routines around physio and making it a fun experience.
What do you do when you get a new referral?
If the new client is a child, I always ring and make contact with the primary carer and ask their advice on how they would like physio done and their expectations. I want to find out about the child’s favourite things, so I can establish a relationship even before I meet them. I always reassure parents that physio will be fun and lots of laughs and make sure the kids know it’s their time and make them feel special. They are my priority and it’s all about them.
My routine is always the same, as that works best. The greatest feeling is when you arrive for physio and you get this amazing greeting from the child, it’s priceless. The smile and hugs and screams of delight when you arrive is amazing. It’s the best feeling in the world when you just make a difference in the family’s day and take the pressure off around physio treatments from the carers.
Is it difficult connecting with a new child or young person, particularly when they know you are there to do physio with them?
Kids enjoy routine, so I stick to that. I plan physio visits in advance and engage with the kids as we establish our relationship. Once you get their trust and make their time all about them it becomes really awesome. The challenge of building this relationship is so personally rewarding. I love when they fully trust you and they tell you funny stories. Boy, the mums and dads and I have had some laughs from kids’ comments; they mirror image everything. It’s not just about the kids with CF, you have to engage with siblings, the extended family and pets and build relationships with all of them. They like to feel important in their own special way and be included and part of physio.
What are some of the strategies you use to get children and young people to do physio?
Lots of challenges and goal setting between me and the person with CF; with verbal promises, contracts and pinkie promises. The kids love positive encouragement and cuddles and sometimes a space where they can just voice their opinion and for us to listen to them.
We always do physio first and then the reward is after. I establish a personal connection with everyone and listen to what they like to do. For example, it could be ok if I buy an ice cream at McDonald’s as a treat for great physio and working hard but we agree that we walk there and back, which obviously includes exercise, fresh air and a good chat. Sometimes it could be bubble play or 10 minutes on the iPad, cards, art work, baking or a favourite story just whatever they like to do to put a smile on their face.
What do you do when someone refuses to do physio?
Everyone has challenging days. I don’t push the issue straight away to do physio but focus on what’s bothering them. I let them chat and give them lots of reassurance and cuddles and keep letting them chat away. Before I know it, we are at a great happy level again and we do physio and the challenge is done. Sometimes it’s harder than other days but it’s just time and patience and we get there in the end.
Positive encouragement is important, always playing and having fun and sometimes a surprise on the next visit and thinking of something special just for them. I also check with mum and dad that they are happy with the services and if they would like any changes or need help with things that are happening with physio. Parents enjoy the time to themselves and a break from routine.
Do children and young people ask you lots of questions about CF?
Some kids ask more questions than others. I always check with the parents what they have told their kids and respect their wishes about what they would like their kids to know. As our relationship establishes I start to get them to do things on their own in preparation for physio. I listen and answer their questions as simply and honestly as possible and am always guided by the parents.
I also care for older kids,’ teenagers and young adults. I have introduced FaceTime physio for young adults which works great. You can do it at a time that works for everyone.
This is the best job in the world! I love what I do and being welcomed into the family’s homes. It’s different every day and so personally rewarding seeing the kid’s and adults develop and create their dreams. I am so lucky to be a part of the CFWA Team. Thanks so much to all the families.