Guidebook for Occupational Therapy in End-of-Life Care

This comprehensive guidebook aims to educate occupational therapy (OT) students and practitioners on the end-of-life care setting, the need for OT services within this setting, and the role, scope, and delivery of OT services for terminally ill patients and their families.

Student name: Shannon Sudrla
Name of mentors: Mary Smith, Anna Norene Carlson, Alexandria Cannata
School: University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences - Austin, TX
Setting and location: Amedisys Hospice - Temple, TX
Virtual / In-person / Hybrid: In-Person

Purpose: To address the absence of OT services in end-of-life care leaving patients’ occupational needs unmet, directly affecting their quality of life. The literature demonstrates a distinct need for enhanced education and training among OT students and practitioners to better prepare them to work with terminally ill patients who face progressive functional decline and imminent death.

Method/Design/Approach: A thorough literature review, interprofessional interview and observation, and obtainment of an End-of-Life Doula certification facilitated the development of this guidebook along with interprofessional revisions to ensure validity and reliability.

Results/Outcomes: A comprehensive guidebook demonstrating the role, scope, and delivery of OT services in end-of-life care.

Ideas for next steps to build on this topic:

  • Development of an OT program with a hospice or palliative care agency.
  • Hospice volunteer training program to promote occupational participation.
  • End-of-life care interdisciplinary team training on the distinct role of OT in end-of-life care and how to promote occupational participation within their models of care and service delivery.

Tips for students undertaking a similar project: Develop an understanding that OT in end-of-life care does not focus on rehabilitation, but rather on facilitating participation in meaningful occupations. Focus on educating healthcare communities, populations, and patients on our role, and advocating for our unique and needed presence in end-of-life care. Become educated on the dying process and how it impacts all aspects of a person as an occupational being. Face your own individual beliefs about death and dying.


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Thank you for sharing this, @Shannon.Sudrla! @ann10 and I were just talking about this practice area at Conference. I especially like the part of the guidebook where you outline the different models.

I was with my grandma when she passed away this winter, and it was my first time being in the room with someone as they passed away. It was such a powerful experience, and I can really see OTs role in this stage of life. I’m hopeful that this practice area will continue to grow, and hope to feature it on the podcast next year!


This is incredible! What a huge effort and such important work. Let’s chat about dissemination! Kudos! Building bridges between palliative care teams and rehabilitation teams was the focus of my capstone and it was just accepted for publication in American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. AND - your mentor Norene (she is AWESOME) and I are working on a palliative care Community of Practice with AOTA. SO - we have momentum - let’s get busy sharing our value at end of life! Promoting OT in palliative care improves quality of life and symptom management AND is cost effective and leads to a better overall patient/family experience.
Again - well done!!


Hi @ann10 ,
Thank you so much for your kind words! I am looking forward to continued dissemination and would love to connect with you and discuss ideas. Congrats on your capstone being accepted for publication, what an amazing accomplishment!!
Thanks again, I look forward to future discussions!

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Thank you for this and yes OT has a role with helping people who are on hospice specially in the nursing home and they really benefit from it.

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