Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
While they do amazing work all year long, April is the month we honor our occupational therapists. A broad area of medical care, occupational therapists work with people of all ages with physical, sensory, or cognitive problems. Occupational therapy (OT) works with individuals to help them regain independence in specific areas of their lives. They help with barriers that affect emotional, social, and physical needs.
People often confuse OT with physical therapy. Physical therapy helps improve movement, mobility, and function using exercises, stretches, or other physical activities. OT assists people to perform daily tasks more easily.
In adults, occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients using therapeutic techniques to help a patient regain their ability to manage everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.
Some of the most common reasons an individual might want OT is if there is a traumatic injury to the brain or spinal cord, if there are sensory processing disorders, autism, broken bones or other orthopedic injuries, and even mental health or behavioral challenges.
OT can assist with fine motor skills such as small muscle movements made with fingers, toes and the hands. If someone has had an injury to the hand, for example, they may need to be retaught how to grasp an object.
Some also need assistance with visual perceptual skills which involves organizing and interpreting information. An injury to the eyes might fall into this category as our eyes send large amounts of information to our brains to process every single second.
One of the core life skills are cognitive functions which are used to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Cognitive therapies can help people with stroke relearn everyday tasks. Occupational therapists work in many different locations such as hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities, and private practices.
At the first appointment, an occupational therapist will generally do an assessment. They may come to your home or workplace to see what you do and what changes might need to be made to that environment. This could be as simple as suggesting you move furniture, or what type of assistive device would be beneficial. If relearning tasks, they may walk through your daily chores with you.
Next they will work with you to set a therapy plan that will set goals designed for specific needs. Sometimes it might be something simple like giving you simple exercises to improve balance or build muscle strength.
OT is often used to help a child improve school performance or manage daily activities. Children that are candidates for OT include those who have had some form of birth defect or injury, a child with autism, spinal bifida, cerebral palsy and more.
OT is the only profession that helps people across an individual’s lifespan and enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them focus on their health or live better with injury, illness, or disability.
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