In celebration of Occupational Therapy Awareness Month, we're highlighting the critical work performed by these skilled healthcare professionals.What Occupational Therapists Do
These medical professionals provide person-centered care to promote well-being through occupation. In a therapy context, occupation is not a reference to the industry you work in or your job title. Occupations are the activities of daily life. They are the daily activity that "occupy" people as they go about the job of living. Examples are dressing, driving, bathing, eating, toileting, writing, and cooking. Occupational therapists help people to engage and participate in the activities of everyday life.
Where Occupational Therapists Work
An occupational therapist (OT) may work in a wide variety of settings. You may find an OT working in:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Outpatient clinics
- Home healthcare
- Correctional facilities
- Private enterprises
Some therapists specialize and choose to work in an environment that serves a designated population. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a process for occupational therapists to become board certified in pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, or physical rehabilitation.
How Occupational Therapists Work
When someone is referred for occupational therapy, the therapy process begins with an assessment. Then the therapist creates a treatment plan and conducts the intervention.
The assessment stage starts with a review of the patient's medical history. Next, the OT usually interviews the patient. The interview may be with a parent or caregiver if the patient is very young or otherwise not able to respond to questions. During the interview, the therapist will ask questions based on the patient's medical history. Input from patients and families is valuable as the therapist is trying to determine what tasks the patient is struggling with and the patient's level of function prior to the diagnosis.
The therapist will also determine the patient's current level of function relative to the diagnosis. Typically, that entails evaluating mobility, range of motion, and response to sensory information. The therapist may administer standardized assessments to collect this data.
If the assessment has shown a need for treatment, the OT will develop a treatment plan, which may also be called a plan of care. Together, the patient, the OT, and possibly a caregiver, will decide on therapy goals. A sample goal would be: In six weeks, the patient will be able to get out of bed independently. The plan of care will include the therapy goals, frequency of therapy, expected length of treatment, and how the patient will reach therapy goals. The plan may require physician approval.
Intervention practices vary based on factors such as treatment goals, diagnosis, and the patient's level of function. A brief description of common intervention practices follows.
Patient and Family Education
Every intervention includes education for the patient. However, family members are frequently included. Family members often are important members of the treatment team because they help the patient practice skills outside of therapy sessions. Someone with mobility challenges may require a family member's assistance to work on the skills they're learning in therapy. An OT may even assign "homework" to parents of pediatric patients to ensure the child works on therapy skills in the home environment.
An OT may prescribe adaptive equipment such as a raised toilet, transfer tub bench, handheld shower, a long-handled shoehorn, or many other adaptive devices. The therapist instructs the patient on the proper use of the equipment.
Activities of Daily Living Retraining
A person may need to be retrained on certain activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, dressing, and so on. The OT may have to provide instruction on adaptive techniques to deal with issues like pain or the loss of hand function.
Functional Mobility Activities
The OT may need to provide instruction for functional transfers. For example, the patient may need to learn to transfer from a bed to a bedside commode.
Rehabilitation Center in Georgia
At Church Home LifeSpring, we provide occupational therapy and other rehabilitation services to people recovering from surgery, sickness, or injury. Contact us if we can assist you or a loved one.