Occupational therapy helps people with an injury, illness, or disability learn or re-learn to do everyday activities. For adults, this could include activities like getting dressed, cooking, and driving. For children, this could include activities like learning or playing. Occupational therapy got its name from its focus on helping patients with everyday activities—or “occupations.”
Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) are a part of your health care team. They think about your physical abilities, like which parts of your body you can and can’t easily move. They think about your mental abilities, like what your brain can and can’t process. And they think about your environment, like where you live, work, or go to school—and how you get there.
Your OT will ask you questions about what’s important to you, like driving your car or folding your laundry, so treatment focuses on meeting your goals. They might change the way you do an activity, like putting an extension on your steering wheel or suggesting grab bars to help you get in and out of the shower. OTs and OTAs will usually go wherever you need them so you can practice your skills where you’ll actually be doing activities, like your school, house, office, or nursing home.
- Occupational therapy activities support what you want to do. All of your occupational therapy treatment activities should have meaning and be things you want and need to do. They should help you reach your goals and make you more functional and independent. The following are examples: Self-care or activities of daily living (brushing teeth, buttoning clothes, using eating utensils), Hand-eye coordination (writing on a classroom whiteboard, copying in a notebook what the teacher writes on the board), Fine motor skills (grasping and controlling a pencil, using scissors).
Real Life Example: If you had a stroke, you may still want or need to prepare your own meals while you’re recovering. Your OT or OTA should spend time helping you reach this goal by showing you the best ways to do things like reaching into cupboards and turning on the stove.
- Occupational therapy activities that challenge your mind have a purpose. Just like your movement-based occupational therapy activities help you reach your physical goals, your mind-based activities should help you reach your cognitive goals. Your OT and OTA will think about how your brain uses information to help you reach your goals.
Real Life Example: If you have a brain injury from an accident, you may still want to do your own grocery shopping. This might include planning your meals, making a grocery list, managing your money, and finding items in the grocery store.
How do I choose an occupational therapist? Your doctor may refer you to an OT, but you can also choose one on your own.
Make sure your OT or OTA is licensed. Federal and state laws license and regulate OTs and OTAs. Contact your state’s Occupational Therapy Licensing Board or Agency to confirm that your OT or OTA is licensed.
Check your insurance coverage. Ask your health insurance plan if they cover occupational therapy. Many do, including Medicare and Affordable Care Act plans. Also ask if the OT and/or OTA you want to see is in your plan’s network, how much you may need to pay, and how many appointments are covered.
Contact Pemi-Baker Community Health today to set up an appointment in your home or at our office on Boulder Point Drive. 603-536-2232
~written by Anna Swanson