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Meet ExtraCare’s Occupational Therapist Sherisse!

We recently caught up with Sherisse Smith, ExtraCare’s very first Occupational Therapist, to see how she’s finding life at ExtraCare.

Tell us a bit about yourself

“Although I am quite new to the Charity – I’m not new to occupational therapy, having been an OT for 16 years, I have experience in hospitals and in the community, and I’ve now been working for ExtraCare for just over a year. I work alongside Dementia and Wellbeing Enabler Hannah Hodson and manager, Michael Spellman.”

What do you find yourself involved in in your role?

“I’ve worked with all sorts of clients previously, of all ages, backgrounds and physical abilities, from clients coming to terms with amputations, new mums, and older adults returning home from hospital after an operation or procedure. I make sure that all the appropriate support and equipment is ready and waiting for a client to make the transition to new normality as smooth as possible.

My day to day role entails visiting residents in the community who have a diagnosis of Dementia or another cognitive impairment, and ensuring that their homes are safe and that they are able to manage day to day activities as independently as possible either with specialist equipment, or arranging more hands on support. I also complete road safety assessments to ensure residents are safe out on the streets to continue to complete their own shopping for example.”

What brought you to this career?

“After working in various healthcare settings for some time, I realised that I had a passion and interest for working with older persons and particularly those with Dementia, and cognitive impairments. When I saw ExtraCare were recruiting for a OT, I knew I just had to go for it! When I joined the Charity, I was not disappointed, although I was the first Occupational Therapist ExtraCare hired, I just saw this as a challenge and ‘got stuck in’.”

What can you let people know about your role?

“Working with the Dementia Enabler Service, colleagues can refer a resident with a diagnosis of Dementia to our service if they are concerned that there has been a change in their level of function. The goal is to prevent hospital admissions where possible and boost confidence and independence for our residents.

I take a “whole person approach” considering a person’s physical, psychological, social and environmental needs. I provide practical support to overcome barriers that can prevent people from doing activities that matter to them, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and changing the way they feel about their future. This could be making a meal for themselves, going shopping, or being able to get out of bed independently.”

What do you enjoy most about the role?

“I can spend up to six weeks visiting and working with clients referred to me, meaning I can get to know them and develop a rapport – something I was unable to do as well in previous roles. This helps with understanding what support may be required based on their lifestyle and history. Pride can be a big factor for older people when asking for support – and working up a rapport with a client can really break down those barriers.”