This article was originally posted April 5, 2010
April is Occupational Therapy (OT) month. The American Occupational Therapy Association defines OT as “the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or groups for the purpose of participation in roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings.
“Occupational therapy services are provided for the purpose of promoting health and wellness and to those who have, or are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction. Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, sensory, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts to support engagement in everyday life activities that affect health, well-being, and quality of life.”
OTs and certified occupational therapy assistants (COTA’s) work with a vast population ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics. In the area of pediatrics, some OTs work with neonates in the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), while others work with children in the school system. With adults, some OTs work with individuals in hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Many OTs specialize and work with specific populations such as individuals with low vision, while others conduct home assessments and make recommendations regarding modifications that enable people to remain living in their homes as they get older or after an injury.
OTs can play a key role with individuals who desire to age in place. The AARP recommends OTs be utilized to assist people in identifying ways to improve home safety and recommending home modifications. The OTs background, education, and training are unique and help prepare them to work with individuals who want to remain living in their homes.
OTs use their medical knowledge, training, and education to assess areas that include thinking skills, muscle control, sense of touch and vision, as well as their ability to access and function in their home environment. The OT may assess how the individual performs daily functional life skills such as getting dressed, getting in and out of the tub/shower and accessing items in their kitchen/pantry. They gather this information and make recommendations to improve independence and safety in the home.