• Sheewayne Sandoval

A Purpose Driven Life

In Recognition of National Occupational Therapy Month


As we close out the month of April, we had to find the time to recognize National Occupational Therapy Month. Finding the timeI say that with all due respect to all the Occupational Therapists that are working on the front lines during this unprecedented healthcare pandemic. In another sense, it could not have come at a better time to recognize Occupational Therapists, also known as OTs and COTAs (Certified Occupational Therapist Assistants). We thank you and salute you for the work you are doing and the lives you are enhancing.

What do Occupational Therapists Do?

A purpose driven life, we all have heard this saying, means different things to different people. For many, it means an ability to live life at its fullest, to engage in the things that bring you joy, and to be driven by something that’s purposeful to you. These traits all encompass functional activities—activities that enhance your quality of life, giving you a meaningful, self-sustaining life. Helping people maintain their function and independence is the cornerstone of Occupational Therapy. When this is somewhat interrupted or suspended due to a traumatic event, medical condition, diagnosis, or even a Coronavirus, an OT can help restore functional abilities by working on safe ways to continue participating in daily activities, occupations, or hobbies.

A science and evidence-based practice, Occupational Therapists use scientifically based exercises and techniques to restore or maintain body functions and help adapt to environments and/or functional activities for a better life. BenCura’s Occupational Therapists truly exemplify excellence in delivering this—a purpose driven life.

How Do Occupational Therapists Help?

The primary goal is to assist patients, or better yet, assist people. By using a person-centered approach, Occupational Therapists help people adapt as life changes, improving their ability to perform meaningful activities. It is important to us that the people we serve are still able to perform daily activities that are important to them, even after a life-altering condition or event.

If someone loves to garden outside but has an accident that prohibits gardening for a period of time, an OT may find creative ways to safely allow the patient to continue doing what they love outdoors, even if adaptations are needed for the time being. Occupational Therapists are creative strategists with a medical understanding of how the body works and how conditions affect function.

If an adult or geriatric patient needs Occupational Therapy, the OT’s treatment plan can consist of the following objectives:

Evaluate a patient’s functional capacity after a work injury, identifying their ability to return to the job or occupation, and set goals to restore function in order to get them there.

Train the patient on the use of assistive devices (i.e using a reacher to put on their pants).

Educate the patient on safety awareness in their living environment to prevent accidents.

Physical interventions such as individualized exercises to build muscle strength, increasing endurance/stamina, and balance improvement techniques.

Work on fine motor skills and upper body coordination (i.e., using utensils, getting a cup from a cabinet, writing or texting a message).

Implement activity modifications or compensatory strategies for functional impairments or cognitive deficits (ex. Create a customized written/pictorial daily schedule to remind patients with memory loss the steps to perform their morning routine independently).

Telling an OT Story

By: Kristen Webb, OTR

This 65-year-old active woman has had a history of pain in her shoulder following a fall at home. This led to almost no range of motion in her shoulder and left her unable to lift her arm above her head. On a day-to-day basis, she would attempt household chores and other normal, life-giving activities, pausing to caress her shoulder in hopes of controlling the pain and moving her arm freely. Her family was also impacted, as they noticed their loved one could no longer do the things she enjoyed without pain. They visited her and provided the option of therapy. She, in discussion with her family, chose the therapy route. She met a BenCura Occupational Therapist, who from the first appointment was personable and truly catered to her needs, listening to her goals and desires. On the day of evaluation, the older woman reported she wasn't able to lift her arm high enough to brush her teeth, do her hair, or get dressed without excruciating pain. However, after several weeks of therapy, her pain had decreased, and she reported less difficulty getting herself ready for the day. She is now able to complete her daily routine as well as care for her dog and husband again. She continues to come to therapy in hopes of further strengthening her shoulder to avoid rotator cuff surgery. Going home and having the pleasure and joy of normal, life-giving activities without pain was a relief.

Quality of Life, restored.

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