What is Occupational Therapy?

occupational therapy

Many people are unfamiliar with what it is occupational therapists actually do. During occupational therapy month in April, the American Occupational Therapy Association attempts to bring awareness to the important work occupational therapists perform in the healthcare field every day.

Occupational therapy is a type of treatment aimed to restore functionality and independence in a patient’s day-to-day environment. If you are referred to occupational therapy home services through SALMON Health and Retirement, an occupational therapist will complete an assessment and determine a plan to manage things on your own in your home You may ask yourself, “Why do I need an occupational therapist?”… Below you just might find the answers.

Who can occupational therapy help?

Occupational therapy can be beneficial to any person who has a change in function or mobility caused by an acute or progressive neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Guillain-Barré syndrome, stroke, spinal cord injury, neuropathy, spinal conditions causing nerve compression, traumatic brain injury, peripheral nerve injuries, Parkinson’s, dementia/Alzheimer’s or a brain tumor.  Occupational therapy can also help  orthopedic-related conditions including shoulder, wrist, hand, hip, knee or foot fractures; spine or rib fractures; rotator cuff injuries; pain conditions such as arthritis; trauma after a fall; gout; and issues affecting the spine.

Why would I need an occupational therapist?

After a medical event, an injury or changes due to the normal aging process, you may lose the ability to complete tasks within your normal routine. For example, if you recently fell and broke your hip, you may have returned home but found it difficult to bend, dress and wash your lower body. Your occupational therapist may provide and instruct you on using equipment that would allow independence with lower body tasks. Whatever your needs are, the occupational therapist will work with you to create a plan to meet your specific goals and manage the challenges you are dealing with in your daily routine. These can include memory, balance, mobility, strength and engaging in specific tasks.

Does occupational therapy address strength?

Yes, occupational therapy can focus on decreased strength in arms, hands, and trunk that affect one’s balance during self-care and home management tasks. This includes tasks that involve the ability to reach for items, open containers, and move to and from chairs and other surfaces. An occupational therapist’s goal is to assist with regaining range of motion and strength that may have been affected by arthritis, pain, neuropathy, and/or recent or chronic injury or disease.

What should you expect when an occupational therapist comes to your home?

An occupational therapist will complete a home safety assessment to determine how you can most safely move around and complete daily activities. This will enable you to return to independence and minimize risk for injury. Home modifications can include adaptive equipment such as a tub chair, grab bar placement, ramps, commodes and walking devices. Changes to home setup may involve rearranging items in cabinets, ensuring effective lighting, and placing non-slip surfaces for successful completion of daily tasks with easy and safe access to commonly used items. Therapists can also provide patients with local resources to meet individual needs and put them on a path to a better lifestyle.

Article contributed by Maegham Ludwig and Donna Petkunas Byrne, Occupational Therapists at SALMON VNA & Hospice.