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What is Occupational Therapy?

The second article of my three-part series, Understanding Rehabilitation Care, focuses on occupational therapy.

As we age, it’s common to lose the ability to do the things we used to do, including simple things. This often results in feeling frustrated, confused and, sometimes, embarrassed. Luckily, occupational therapy can help.

An occupational therapist assisting a female older adult with using a resistance band to improve arm strength.About Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps older adults participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities including:

  • Daily living activities – employing exercises and rehabilitation techniques that make activities like dressing, eating and bathing easier
  • Fall prevention – teaching fall prevention methods and balancing and muscle building exercises
  • Memory rehabilitation – implementing measures that strengthen a patient’s memory and better cope with memory loss
  • Home modifications – assessing a patient’s home and making recommendations that result in a safer independent living environment
  • Vision Loss – helping improve perceptual vision, pattern detection and overall visual awareness

Occupational therapy addresses all aspects of aging, from wellness to treatment, to help keep older adults safe and independent.

About Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists take a holistic approach and create customized plans that adapt the environment and tasks to fit the patient. For example, our team creates customized recovery plans that focus on an individual recovering as quickly as possible and to the best of his/her ability. Because of this approach, occupational therapists often ask, “what matters to you” instead of “what’s that matter with you?”

The customized approach includes:

  • Evaluation
    Typically involves determining goal(s) the patient wants to achieve and may include evaluating his/her home and workplace.
  • Interventions
    Activities that aim to improve the patient’s ability to perform daily activities and reach his/her goals. Depending on the activities, these may be performed with at the patient’s home, workplace and/or community as well as the occupational therapist’s facility.
  • Outcomes
    Evaluations that measure whether goals are being met and if changes need to be made to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapist addresses all aspects of aging, from wellness strategies to treatment. With a focus on function, occupational therapists help keep older adults independent and safe, reducing hospitalization and institutional care.

The science-driven profession can be effective at treating gerontology issues such as:

  • Improving physical functioning and occupational performance related to health management of older adults who are frail and/or have osteoarthritis and macular degeneration
  • Reducing functional decline and improving safety with home modification and adaptive equipment
  • Increasing exercises of functional activities
  • Reducing falls and injuries with progressive resistance training that focuses on improving strength, balance and walking
  • Improving driving knowledge and skills with short-term classroom and on-the road instruction as well as using bioptics for those with visual impairments

Work Location
Occupational therapists mainly work in hospitals but the may also work in outpatient clinics, private practice offices, rehab centers, nursing or assisted living communities and patient homes. Our occupational therapist work in the Rehabilitation suite of our Health Care Center.

Education and Licensure
Occupational therapists have a master’s degree in occupational therapy though some may have doctorate. They also must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam to be licensed in their state and take continuing education courses every year to keep their license current.

Some may have a board or specialty certification from the American Occupational Therapy Association, such as in pediatrics, gerontology, mental health and physical rehabilitation.

Learn more about CLV’s Rehabilitation services and specialties including physical therapy and speech therapy. If you have any questions about our services, call 443-605-4137.

About the Author

Michael Winebrenner is the director of rehabilitation at Carroll Lutheran Village. He has his doctorate in physical therapy and has worked in the field for over 20 years.

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