Occupational Therapists are often asked about the nature of their profession and what they do. Though the role of an Occupational Therapist in a particular work environment can vary significantly from one workplace to another, as a whole, Occupational Therapy can be understood as rehabilitation focused on enabling meaningful occupation.
“Occupation” here is a broad concept that can be broken down into personal care, home/community management, leisure and productivity. The role of an occupational therapist is to assess an individual’s cognition, psychological state and physical state and look for solutions that can break down the barriers that individuals may face in their day-to-day lives.
At Lifemark, we are fortunate to have a multidisciplinary team that includes chiropractors, kinesiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and massage therapists. Taking advantage of this, Occupational Therapists at Lifemark employ a holistic approach that can complement other rehabilitation services offered by the Lifemark team.
Here are some examples of tasks Occupational Therapists can handle:
- Concussion management strategies, activity scheduling, assisting in planning/pacing, cognitive, visual and vestibular rehabilitation
- Ergonomic assessments, worksite coaching and worksite assessments
- Cognitive demands analysis and cognitive functional abilities evaluation
- Environmental and equipment assessments in the client’s home
- Pain management education, activity scheduling, assisting in planning/pacing activity, strategies to enhance quality of life
- Cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural activation and lifestyle strategies to manage stress, anxiety and improve mood
Occupational therapy and concussion management
Let’s break down one service mentioned above to see how occupational therapy can help. As an example, picture Natalie, a wife and mother of two young kids who works as a Fitness Programmer.
One afternoon at work, Natalie is putting away some exercise equipment and quickly raises her head to stand up, not realizing that there’s a metal bar in the way. She hits her head hard. Ouch! She’s dazed and feels a headache immediately. She’s sent home to rest. She goes to see a healthcare professional, who diagnoses her with a concussion. She reports symptoms of dizziness, slowed thinking, fatigue, difficulty paying attention, decreased memory, disrupted sleep, and headache pain.
Though she’s taking time off from work, she’s having a hard time “resting” as a mother of two young children and could use some help to get back on her feet. Luckily, she’s referred to an Occupational Therapist, who assists her in her recovery.
Here’s how the occupational therapist can help Natalie:
- Functional Cognitive Screen: The OT can identify areas where Natalie is struggling cognitively, physically, emotionally, and functionally. From there, a treatment plan is created to help improve her function and coping ability.
- Energy Conservation and Pacing: The OT works with Natalie to implement pacing. The OT helps her find ways to determine how much she can do and when, and, if need be, how to say “No”.
- Sleep Hygiene: The OT makes Natalie fill out an activity log and complete a sleep diary to look at her sleep routines and behaviours. The OT provides education, coaching and problem-solving skills to help improve Natalie’s sleep.
- Cognitive rehabilitation: The OT provides Natalie with education about concussion and recovery, refers her to other treatment providers to assist in her recovery, provides cognitive and functional activities to build her cognitive endurance gradually and develop coping strategies while she is recovering.
- Gradual Return to Work (GRTW) and Life: The OT completes a Job Site Visit to assess the work demands of Natalie’s work environment, then collaborates with Natalie and her employer to create a Gradual Return to Work plan, helping her returning to work successfully.
Resuming meaningful activities
The OT also works with Natalie to help her accomplish other goals that can relate to different aspects of her life as a parent or as an individual. Slowly, she’s able to return to activities that make her life meaningful.