Occupational Therapy refers to the rehabilitation process for people living with, or recuperating from illness. The intended long-term effect is to bring such people back into the performance of daily tasks needed for survival and to eventually establish some level of independence and, by extension, regain the feeling of self-worth and esteem.
Occupational Therapy Month
Celebrated in April, Occupational Therapy Month shifts the focus somewhat from the patient to the caregiver and the symbiotic relationship between the two that must be fostered and entrenched.
Occupational therapists work with patients recovering from a broad spectrum of diseases. Physical illnesses may predominate in terms of where occupational therapists are most visible but their invaluable services are also in evidence among those patients whose lives have been greatly altered by mental or cognitive disorders.
Occupational Therapy is a fully recognised discipline in the developed world. In the poorer nations this important facet of the healing process is more often than not relegated to family members who are often ill-equipped to satisfactorily discharge this crucial function. Occupational therapists by default, they are also celebrated as important pillars of the healing process during Occupational Therapy Month.
A Unique Therapy
No two occupational therapists perform the same task since each patient has his own individual temperament and is affected differently by disease. In addition not all patients can summon the same level of wherewithal to turn their lives around. The key then is to have a personal evaluation to determine the degree of apathy displayed by the patient, to gradually reverse it and focus instead on the patient’s goals. Interventions are also customised to the patient’s particular needs based on their ability to perform daily tasks. Constant evaluations on progress made mark important milestones for both patient and occupational therapist.
The occupational therapist’s evaluation extends beyond the patient himself and takes in his environment and how this is likely to impact the recovery and rehabilitation process. The home and other family members are important allies in the very broad and at the same time very particular field of Occupational Therapy. The environment at school or in the workplace is also assessed and appropriate adjustments made to smoothen, as far as is practicably possible, the patient’s long road back to relative normalcy. An occupational therapist cannot work alone with the patient. The therapist plays the role of team captain and as crucial as her role in the patient’s life is, the other players are equally indispensable if the process of rehabilitation is to gain traction and turn around the patient’s life.
Occupational Therapy has at its disposal various techniques or methods that are applied depending on the individual patient’s needs. Providing devices that make the performance of varying activities easier is one such. Proposing and teaching different ways of approaching a task is another. Performing a given task in small manageable stages until the performance approaches the instinctive is perhaps the most common method of Occupational Therapy. Also proposing changes in the performance of an activity to take into account the patient’s particular challenge and disposition is also a tried and tested technique in rehabilitating the patient.
If you are an occupational therapist by profession, or by default, Occupational Therapy Month celebrates your invaluable role in easing patients’ lives back to normalcy and in lessening the load on families and everyone concerned.