I first came across the occupational therapy (OT) profession as a 22-year-old when I worked in a hospital in Melbourne. To be completely honest I had no idea what the profession was and how occupational therapists helped people. I remember going to one of the sections of the hospital and I could smell something tasty cooking in the oven. In a kitchen area there was an occupational therapist working with a patient who had an arm injury and she was teaching this man how to cook for himself with the use of one arm. I thought it looked like a rewarding job. I think I had assumed that occupational therapy had something to do with the workplace, just from its title. From this point on I had a bit more of an understanding about the profession, but not a great deal.
Three years ago I started work at the Independent Living Centre WA as the Marketing and Communications Officer. Here I am surrounded by occupational therapists, 43 qualified OTs to be exact. Part of my role is to promote the wonderful services of this organisation and I’m very big on communicating to people in a simple language that is easy to understand.
With all the changes occurring in the disability and aged care sectors, the ILC is responding by developing and growing our services so that we can best meet people’s needs now and into the future. Around a year ago we began providing occupational therapy assessments in people’s homes, so of course as part of my role I aim to make people aware of this service.
I’ve come to realise, that perhaps, like me when I hadn’t had anything to do with occupational therapy, many people may not be aware what OT actually is and how it could possibly help them.
So, I ask, how can we explain to people in simple terms, what occupational therapy is and how it can help them?
I surveyed our OTs and asked the question “In the last month, as an occupational therapist, what have you helped someone to do?” Some of the responses I received are outlined below:
- I showed a client a sock aid so they could put socks on by themselves.
- I helped someone find an alternative means of getting around their university campus.
- I helped someone maintain independence in their toileting by giving them information on bottom wipers.
- I helped a therapist find options for a client with a hearing impairment so they could continue caring for their spouse.
- I have helped some children develop skills that will support their inclusion in the community…in school, at home, with family and friends. These include sharing and taking turns; using words to ask for toys; scooping with a spoon; identifying different shapes and colours; managing steps and uneven surfaces; prepare for using scissors and pencils; and having fun while playing with others.
- I taught a lady how to transfer safely out of her bed and chair so that she could do it without asking for assistance from her husband.
- I helped someone to access his community, which meant that he could visit his friends around town, rather than staying isolated at home. We achieved this through trialling a scooter and discussing funding options. The best part was seeing him later on, travelling along the footpath in his new scooter, with a huge grin on his face.
One of our OTs Emma Van Chastelet commented “To me, OT is about helping people participate in the roles and tasks which they need to make their lives meaningful and functional.”
Another one of our OTs Kelly McAuliffe recently provided me with some information about occupational therapy; it stood out to me because of its simplicity so I will share it with you below.
Occupational therapy is a health care profession that helps people of all ages learn or regain skills so they can live the life they want. An occupational therapist can assist you to live on your own, become an active member of your community and maintain your confidence in doing every day activities.
Occupational therapists work with people to identify how their health condition or disability affects them. They may also ask their client to demonstrate how they carry out the activities that are causing them problems. They will then make some suggestions for alternative ways to possibly do these activities.
An occupational therapist can support a person by:
- Showing new ways of doing activities, for example, getting into and out of the car, showering, dressing, doing household activities such as laundry or cooking and getting to places in the community.
- Providing advice on helpful products and equipment to make daily tasks easier, including mobility aids.
- Helping to create a safer home.
- Providing advice on falls prevention and strategies.
- Building a person’s strength and balance.
- Providing tips to reduce the effects of pain and fatigue.
- Finding ways to manage memory loss.
- Helping you to pursue leisure and community activities.
One of our Service Managers Hilary O’Connell also sent me this diagram which I think sums up the profession quite nicely:
Are you an occupational therapist? What have you helped someone to do?
Have you had an occupational therapist assist you? How did they help?
ILC’s occupational therapists can help you to do everyday things and achieve your goals.
We offer a range of services including free information and advice about assistive equipment and technology as well as assessments in your home.
Check out our website for information about our services or contact our enquiry line to speak to an occupational therapist on 1300 885 886.