By Nora Romano, OTR/L

April is National Occupational Therapy Month, a good time to learn about the Occupational Therapist’s (OT) role in rehabilitation, and how OT can contribute to a full recovery after a life-changing illness, surgery or injury.

When we hear that someone we know has gone to a rehabilitation center for therapy, usually we think of the physical therapy (PT) component of the discipline, which involves exercising and manipulating the body to improve muscle or joint function to allow the patient to resume a normal life.  PT includes treatments that will help patients navigate the more physical aspects of daily living, such as walking, climbing stairs and maintaining balance.  OT, however, is often part of the rehabilitation routine, focusing on enhancing the patient’s ability to perform the smaller but as important activities of daily living such as dressing, grooming/bathing, toileting, transferring and eating, as well as preparing meals, using electronics and shopping.

In a rehabilitation center such as Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation, the OT is part of the interdisciplinary care team, providing necessary treatment to get our patients on the road to recovery and back home.  We provide client-centered care to our patients, with the ultimate goal of optimizing their level of independence and quality of life.  We assess both the physical needs of our patients and also determine if there are any environmental hazards in their homes that might interfere with a safe return.  Working as a team, we partner with our patients to determine and prioritize goals, and then set a plan to achieve them.

Adaptive techniques and assistive devices may be suggested in order to compensate for impairments.  Techniques may include memory games to improve recognition and recall.  Other techniques help people use their strengths to compensate for impairments, such as learning to use a non-dominant hand to button buttons, tie shoes and eat after a paralyzing stroke.  OT may also recommend assistive devices to help patients function more independently.  The OT may fit or construct devices that are unique to a patient’s needs.  Common assistive devices include adaptive feeding utensils, dressing equipment, walking aids (canes and walkers), mobility scooters or wheelchairs and orthotics (splints).

The OT is an important part of the rehabilitation team.  With their help, our patients achieve functional independence, enabling them to return to their work, leisure and home activities, stronger and in control of their lives.

Nora is a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *