“What is occupational therapy?” a gentleman wrote to a newspaper helpline. “I am retired and I don’t need a job. What does OT stand for? Overtired? Overtime?”
“Your life is made up of occupations – meaningful everyday activities,” the American Occupational Therapy Association explains. “These occupations can include many roles, such as being a parent, a friend, a spouse, a tennis player, an artist, a cook, or a musician. We generally don’t think about our daily occupations until we have trouble doing them.
“Everyone has occupations – from the toddler whose occupations are playing and learning to develop important skills, to the older adult whose occupations are engaging with family and friends and managing his or her home. If you are recovering from an accident or injury, your valued occupations may be disrupted. Occupational therapy incorporates your valued occupations into the rehabilitation process.”
Why the gentleman above needed therapy is anyone’s guess, but for argument sake I’ll say that he fell and injured his arm. Just think of all the things you wouldn’t be able to do if it was you, particularly if it was your dominant side. Occupational therapy helps with the activities of daily living (ADLs).
ADL’s include eating, dressing, sleeping, bathing, cooking and grocery shopping. If you’re employed it’s the ability to perform tasks. And, what about your free time? Hobbies, sports, reading, writing, and travel are all ADLs.
Cathy Franciol is an occupational therapist in Fairbanks, Alaska. She wrote in an article published in 2013, “As therapists, it is important for us to figure out what is limiting a person’s ability to perform these functional tasks and find a way for them to complete them successfully and independently.
“Physical therapy does exercises to improve strength, range of motion of particular muscle and body movements such as walking, whereas occupational therapy does similar exercises and activities to improve functional tasks as self-care, hobbies, returning to work. This may include building strength, coordination, thinking skills or researching adaptive alternatives to assist in performing the activity.
Franciol said that anyone with a physical, mental or behavioral limitation can benefit from occupational therapy which will allow them to return to normal functionality. As an example, she said that arthritis sufferers can improve their ADLs by using splints to support sore joints in order to better use the hand or arm. Or they may find it useful to use adaptive equipment to improve their ability to cook, write, groom, dress or exercise.
People who’ve suffered a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other neurological events benefit from occupational therapy; as do infants and children with sensory processing disorders or those with behavioral health issues.
Occupational therapists can help rehabilitate those who’ve suffered work injuries and can assess the ergonomics of the workplace to help prevent further occurrences.
One article I read said that an occupational therapist won’t ask the question, “What’s the matter with you?” Instead, they’ll ask, “What matters to you.” I like that.
“An occupational therapist will evaluate your situation and, with input from you (and perhaps your family, care provider, or friend), develop individualized goals that allow you to resume or pursue your valued occupations,” AOTA says.
“After you develop goals with your occupational therapist, you will work together on a specific intervention plan to help improve or maintain your ability to perform daily activities. In short, an occupational therapy practitioner can help you live life to its fullest no matter your health condition, disability, or risk factors.”
So, what should our arm-injured gentleman do? Call his primary care provider to get that referral then he can call Bonner General Health’s Performance Therapy Services at 208-265-3325 to schedule an appointment.
“We pride ourselves on our personalized one on one customized hands-on care which helps each individual move efficiently toward his or her goals,” PTS website says. “Our therapists utilize the latest evidence-based treatment and state-of-the-art equipment.”
If he’s unable to drive he can call BGH Home Health Services at 208-265-1007 for an assessment to determine if his house is safe and what adaptive equipment he might need. What are you waiting for? Improve your ADLs, make those calls today.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.