What is Occupational Therapy and How Does it Help?
Occupational therapy– it’s one of those terms that, unless you’re in the healthcare industry, can be difficult to understand what it actually means and how it benefits patients like you.
In it’s simplest form, occupational therapy helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).
Let’s take a closer look at what that entails.
For starters, occupational therapy benefits individuals of all ages who have a physical, emotional or developmental difficulty. Specific examples might include patients that have had a stroke, total knee or hip replacement, arthritis, or children with disabilities who seek to participate more fully in school and social situations.
To treat these and other conditions, occupational therapists are skilled at helping their patients:
- Develop or improve the skills necessary to participate in their daily activities at home, work, and school as well as hobbies or interests that they regularly participate in
- Utilize adaptive devices to compensate for functional losses to prevent injury or isolation
- Learn to care for their personal needs, such as bathing, dressing, making a meal, or remembering to take their medication
The goal of occupational therapy is to enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or other impairments.
For patients who are considering occupational therapy services, our clinics, and senior living communities, generally have three steps in the overall process:
- An individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals
- A customized care plan to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach their goals
- An outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the care plan
Rather than simply using a standard method for all patients, the intervention process is a highly customized approach that considers all facets of the patient’s life: performance skills (motor, process, social interaction); activity demands; performance patterns (habits, routines, rituals, roles); and contexts and environments.
Along the way, the treatment plan is reviewed regularly by the occupational therapist in conjunction with the patient, physician and family members and/or caregivers.
Let’s look at a real life example of how this gets put into action.
Not long ago, we treated a patient in a skilled nursing facility that was recovering from a brain tumor. Because of his condition, he was struggling with overall coordination, which made it challenging to complete everyday tasks, such as making his way to the bathroom.
Once the occupational therapist assessed his physical environment and motor skills, she designed a system that allowed the patient to be successful.
According to Therapy Specialists Founder Susan Harris, “Rather than having to pull a chain at night and have a nurse help him to the bathroom, we put in a ceiling to floor pole by his bed, so that he could easily use it to stand up. We put rubber matted cut out footprints on the floor so that he could visually see where to put his feet. From there, he was able to use his cane and night lights, which allowed him to safely make his way to the bathroom. He was so thrilled that he could do that small thing by himself.”
In the end, the real value of occupational therapy is not only helping patients maintain their highest level of function, it’s also giving patients a real sense of hope and belief that they can do it (with a little bit of help from their occupational therapist). It’s opening up possibilities that may have seemed unrealistic because of their condition and it’s helping patients overcome their challenges on their road to recovery.
If you or a loved one are considering occupational therapy or have any questions, please contact one of our clinic locations at your convenience.