Reinventing your life with your Occupational Therapist
A pet peeve for Occupational Therapists (OT) in the world of Rehab is when someone who is not an occupational therapist says, “Oh, the OT helps you with upper extremity exercises, cooking and learning how to take a bath and get dressed.” OTs do these things and a whole lot more. The best description of Occupational Therapy comes right from the OT program at the University of Kansas:
Occupational therapy helps people improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments. It’s a science-driven profession that enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and live actively with illness, injury or disability.
This is a perfect description of the way an OT develops supports and strategies for people with brain injuries in the community. I once had someone tell me they didn’t think a woman named Sasha could make improvements because her brain injury was too severe, she couldn’t list 3 goals she had for rehab and she didn’t want to go out of the house because she knew people would stare. My immediate response was to send in an OT to work with Sasha. Here are the 5 things that happened:
5. The OT was able to help Sasha understand that it is natural to be afraid to go out into the community for the first time after such a big event and that it can feel like everyone is staring but it takes practice to overcome both. They decided to break things down into manageable steps.
4. The OT got Sasha out into the community for the first time since her brain injury. The OT was able to offer reassurance that she would help Sasha be safe (not fall), figure how what she could do (assess strengths) and have fun (live life to the fullest). Their first time out was a walk to the car and a ride to the store. They sat in the parking lot watching people and Sasha decided that was enough for one day.
3. Sasha was able to identify a few things she loves to do like make bracelets, cook Indian food and do yoga. All three seemed beyond her capability (to her and to her physician) but the OT decided to help address all 3 goals. They involved not only upper extremities and functional movement but also included cognitive skills like planning, problem solving and reasoning.
2. The OT was able to translate to the case manager and insurance company why these goals are medically necessary and would lead to a more independent lifestyle for Sasha. Being able to “medical speak” is a wonderful attribute of OT’s who are also able to live in the real world of every day language.
1. The OT was able to help Sasha set goals, achieve those goals and believe in herself. She took the bracelet making, cooking and yoga well beyond those goals and Sasha is now employed in a field she had not experienced before her brain injury.
So, when in doubt, always call the Occupational Therapist in to help with a fresh perspective on living life to the fullest. OTs have a great vantage point on the social, emotional, cognitive and physical in a way that helps each individual develop their own plan for achieving goals.