Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of therapy that uses the things we do in everyday life (which we call occupations) therapeutically to enhance or enable participation.  Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation (learning a skill), rehabilitation (re-learning a skill), and promotion of health and wellness for clients with disability- and non–disability-related needs. Occupational therapy is provided by occupational therapists (OTR) and occupational therapy assistants (COTA).

Occupational therapy focuses on the promotion of participation and satisfaction of performance of our occupations.  “Occupations” are the things people do every day that give their life meaning.  The following are general categories of occupations: Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) such as bathing and dressing, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) such as community mobility and pet care, Health Management such as nutrition and medication management, Rest and Sleep, Education, Work, Play, Leisure, and Social Participation.

Occupational therapy can help improve the participant’s ability to shower, dress, and self-feed independently.  OT also address skill-deficits impacting functional mobility, hygiene, and sexual activity

Occupational therapy intervention focuses on supporting daily life in the home and community. Areas often targeted are driving or community mobility, pet care, financial management (ie, budgeting), shopping, meal prep and clean up, and home management (managing the cleaning and organization tasks within a home to maintain safety and health). This area also includes child rearing and care of others, communication management (such as using technology to find and attain information), religious and spiritual expression, and safety and emergency maintenance.

Occupational therapy intervention also focuses on developing and maintaining health and wellness routines. Training here involves building routines around medication management, physical activity, nutrition management (such as following a Dr’s dietary recommendations), and personal care device management (like cleaning and replacing batteries in hearing aids). Communicating with the health care system, symptom and condition management, and social and emotional health promotion and maintenance (or developing self-identity) are also a part of health management training.

Occupational therapy intervention focused on rest and sleep involves education on sleep environments and making modifications to promote restful sleep. It also requires changing bedtime routines and waking routines. Rest is targeted by identifying the need for relaxing opportunities to restore energy and renew interest in daily tasks, and exploring how to implement restful periods to best serve participants.

Occupational therapy seeks to improve participation in education for participants both formally and informally.  Formal education includes K-12th grades, as well as college. Informal education consists of exploring interests as well as participating in the learning of them by taking classes or joining groups, etc.

Occupational therapy intervention to target work includes assessing interests and pursuing them. It includes employment seeking and acquisition (such as applying, follow-up, interviewing, negotiating), job performance and maintenance (such as maintaining the necessary skills to perform the job, and seeking and responding to feedback on performance).  This area also includes volunteer work; exploring volunteer interests and finding ways to participate in those interests.  Also included is retirement preparation and adjustment – as roles change over the lifespan, adjusting to the lifestyle change of retirement can be eased by the identification of other valued roles or interests.

Play and leisure are activities that are intrinsically motivated, internally controlled, and freely chosen and may include suspension of reality, exploration, humor, risk taking, contests, and celebrations. Occupational therapy can help explore options for play and leisure, scheduling to improve balance with other occupations, and by using play and leisure as a mode to learn other skills. Occupational therapy can help provide modifications and training to allow people to participate in preferred leisure or play activities after sustaining injury or illness.

Activities that involve social interaction with others, including family, friends, peers, and community members, and that support social interdependence fall under the area of social participation. Occupational therapy can facilitate engagement in social settings, maintain relationships, and increase participation in the community.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in the United States. Many stroke survivors have changes in their physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities that impair their ability to perform their daily activities related to work, school, parenting, or leisure. Occupational therapy can provide retraining of basic life skills such as bathing and dressing, and teach individuals one-handed techniques for completing daily life tasks. OT can address visual skill deficits, sensory deficits, and muscular strengthening after a stroke. Community reintegration and workplace analysis allow the occupational therapist to make environmental modifications and task adaptations to promote reintegration by the client.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can be sustained through motor vehicle crashes, assault, blasts/explosions, and falls, and cause physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments. Due to the location of injury, mechanism of injury, and severity of injury, brain injuries can cause a wide variety of deficits. Occupational therapy can provide retraining of daily life skills, modifying tasks and the environment as needed to facilitate independence. OT can also address executive functioning skills such as planning, organizing, and time management through training and using compensatory strategies. OT also focuses on sleep hygiene, fatigue management, routine planning, and completes home assessments to minimize risk of falls (the leading cause of brain injury).

There is a natural connection between Occupational Therapy and yoga – both focus on the importance of mind, body and spirit. Studies show that yoga may be able to lower stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue, depression, and insomnia, reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension, improve recovery from neurological conditions such as stroke, symptoms of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, prevent or lower the risk of disease, and improve a sense of overall well-being. OT’s are specially trained in task and environment modifications and compensatory strategies, to allow people with different levels of abilities to perform tasks safely and effectively. With OT involvement in Adaptive Yoga, poses can be modified to maintain safety while still building physical and mental fortitude. Adaptive yoga can be utilized through individual or group sessions; contact Therasupport for more information.

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