Typically, most places will list departments in alphabetical order; however, not in the therapy world.
Though “O” alphabetically comes before “P,” you will rarely see Occupational Therapy before Physical Therapy. I believe this is because the majority of the public is more aware of what PT actually is. I have jokingly referred to OT as being the “other” therapy. I get so excited when I meet someone who actually understands what OT is and what I do.
I’m a bit jealous that my fellow PTs don’t have to constantly explain what they do or feel the need to justify the benefits of their services. The name itself, occupational therapy, really doesn’t give the average person a good idea of what OT encompasses. I have worked in the geriatric setting for over 25 years and have heard it all. “Oh, honey, I’m retired. I don’t need you.” Well, actually you do, and let me tell you why!
What is Occupational Therapy?
OT focuses on the whole person with the ultimate goal of maximizing a person’s independence. Trying to get someone to view their occupation of living, what does that entail? What physical aspects (mobility, vision, limited ROM, or neurological movements) are preventing someone from being more independent? What cognitive aspects (STM deficits, dementia, perceptual deficits) are holding them back? Are there any environmental factors, such as a cluttered area, poor spacing, fall hazards, or ergonomics? There are so many things that we do on a daily basis that we automatically perform. However, when someone is sick or injured, that is when these “occupations” get challenged.
How Can Occupational Therapists Help?
As occupational therapists, it is our job to help identify the factors that limit our patients to perform their daily routines. Whether that includes simple ADLs, figuring out ways for the patient to continue employment, or problem solving ways to continue to pursue activities of interest. To be a part of someone’s success in improving their independence and quality of life is one of the reasons that I love being an OT.
Sometimes all it takes are adaptations to make life easier. Use of adapted equipment, modifying the environment, and compensatory strategies are all techniques specific to OTs. Having been in the assisted living/independent living setting for almost four years now, I have been able to grow relationships with my clients and have enjoyed watching them in their daily occupations. Even after discharge from OT, it is great to be able to engage with them and make sure they are succeeding. However, it is also great to be able to observe any regressions and to help them identify when therapy may be warranted again.
I love it when I receive referrals from my former clients regarding other residents. Not only did I help one person improve, that person is now more aware of what OT is and looks out for others. I feel like I am doing my best to let others know what OT is and how it can potentially improve someone’s independence and quality of life. Now, if only I can get the “O” to come before the “P.” Okay, okay….now that’s just crazy talk!
Kate Beaty, OTR, is an Occupational Therapist in the Senior Living setting for Tx:Team. She has spent the majority of her career in the geriatric setting, whether in nursing homes, assisted livings or sub-acute rehabilitation. She really enjoys the relationships that she fosters with her clients and loves to help them achieve their functional goals.