Occupational therapists are skilled medical professionals who help people who are ill or injured, or are permanently disabled, regain the mobility and motor skills they need to resume everyday activities.
If you've been injured or are disabled, you might at some point require the assistance of an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists are skilled medical professionals who help people who are ill or injured, or are permanently disabled, regain the mobility and motor skills they need to resume everyday activities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
"Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working."
What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
Occupational therapists undergo rigorous training which enables them to accurately review patients' medical histories, evaluate their physical condition and needs, and create specific treatment plans which address their physical limitations.
They also assist patients with learning how to accomplish everyday tasks like dressing themselves and grooming. In many cases, occupational therapists will go to a patient's home or place of work to create a more effective treatment plan. The creation of a patient treatment plan begins with an occupational therapy evaluation.
What Happens During the Occupational Therapy Evaluation?
The occupational therapy evaluation is designed to ensure that each patient's treatment plan is tailored to meet his or her specific needs. The evaluation consists of several discrete processes, including the following 5:
- The Interview and Information Gathering
Prior to the actual interview the occupational therapist will thoroughly review each patient's medical records (if these are available) to gather vital information that can be used in the interview. This includes things like the patient's age, medical history, diagnosis, the reason the patient was referred, the name of the referring physician and any important precautions of which the OT needs to be aware.
During the interview, the occupational therapist will ask questions to get a better sense of what the patient's life was like before the accident or illness that necessitated the referral (this is sometimes referred to as "prior level of function" or PLOF). The OT needs to clearly establish the patient's PLOF, as this will help her or him assess when and under what conditions the patient is ready to be discharged.
- The Assessment
The purpose of the occupational therapy assessment is to determine a patient's medical condition and general health. The assessment will also determine in what ways (and to what extent) a patient's diagnosis is affecting his or her ability to perform typical daily activities.
Among the things the assessment will determine are the patient's level of pain, his or her vital signs (like blood pressure and pulse), and his or her mental state (for example, whether lack of mobility has led to depression or anxiety). The assessment will also test the patient's level of mobility, range of motion and sensation.
- Deciding If the Patient Needs Occupational Therapy
Not every patient is a good candidate for occupational therapy. For example, some might have problems they can handle on their own without the OT's intervention, and others might simply need to work with an exercise coach. Equally important, the occupational therapist in some cases might determine that a patient lacks the motivation to successfully complete his or her treatment plan.
- Establishing Treatment Goals
It's critically important for the occupational therapist and the patient to agree upon a set of treatment goals. OT goals need to be specific and time sensitive. For example, one treatment goal might be "the patient will be able to dress himself within two weeks." Treatment goals should be uniquely designed to address specific problems the patient is experiencing daily. They also form the basis for defining what successful treatment looks like.
- Designing the Treatment Plan
The treatment plan details precisely how a patient will achieve his or her goals. In some instances, the treatment plan must receive a physician's approval. Among the issues addressed in the treatment plan are how long treatment will last and how often the patient will undergo therapy.
What Questions Should Patients Ask the OT?
Prospective candidates for occupational therapy should be proactive and deeply involved in every phase of treatment. That means not being shy about asking whatever questions they have. For example, the patient might ask how the treatment plan will enable him or her to resume everyday activities, what they can do outside of therapy, whether the OT has undergone specialized treatment to address the patient's problems, and what (if any) alternatives to occupational therapy exist.
The Benefits of Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy helps people who have been injured or experienced a debilitating illness regain the mobility and skills necessary to resume the life they had before that illness or injury occurred. Skilled occupational therapists provide patients with workable treatment plans and specific goals to continue living satisfying, successful lives.
To learn more about the ways our short-term rehabilitation and long-term nursing care services can help you or your loved one realize your full potential, contact us today.