If you or a loved one have recently been struggling to complete daily tasks due to a stroke, fall, auto accident, surgery, illness or other injury, it may be time to engage an occupational therapist. While many people are familiar with physical therapy and its many benefits, far fewer seem to understand what occupational therapy (OT) is, its goals and how it works.
What is Occupational Therapy? OT is a process for people of all ages and all stages of life aimed at restoring their ability to perform daily tasks as independently as possible. While physical therapy tends to focus on addressing pain, building strength and improving the range of motion, OT centers around bolstering fine motor skills, cognitive skills, visual-perception skills and addressing sensory-processing issues.
Unlike physical or other therapy regimens, OT is the only therapy whose primary purpose is to improve self-care skills. Typically, occupational therapists meet with a patient’s support team (family members, friends, caregivers, etc.) early on in the process to make sure everyone understand their role in caring for the patient.
It’s difficult for many who suffer a stroke or a fall to bounce back quickly. Activities such as eating, dressing, using the restroom, bathing, climbing into bed, getting in and out of the tub and preparing meals can be especially challenging.
For those whose physical capacities are somewhat limited to begin with, patients engaging in exercises and movements with limited success can quickly become frustrated and want to give up. The effective occupational therapist is a part-time cheerleader, spending time verbally giving encouragement, reminding them of their goals and praising even the smallest amount of progress.
OT exercises and regimens vary greatly depending on the patient’s needs. In most cases, efforts are made to boost the patient’s basic motor skills, and to improve their strength and dexterity. Balancing and muscle building exercises are designed to help keep the patient’s body strong, upright and alert. For patients with memory challenges, therapists may use puzzles, crossword puzzles or matching games. Moreover, occupational therapists often teach caregivers various techniques to help patients succeed in daily tasks.
Many occupational therapists offer services to view a patient’s home and make recommendations that will reduce the risk of falls and accidents (walk-in showers, handrails, lift recliners, etc.) and help those who are vision impaired (labeling medication in large print, color-coded tags to identify various items, adding more lighting, etc.).
Of course, you don’t have to wait for an accident to engage the services of an occupational therapist. Many of their services can help immediately – before an accident occurs. Need more information? Consider researching occupational therapy or contact the team at Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab and Chiropractic.