Occupational therapists help individuals

Occupational therapists help individuals Have you or anyone close to you experienced an illness or injury making it difficult or impossible to perform ordinary activities such as getting dressed, brushing your teeth, driving, manipulating tools, balancing a checkbook, etc.? If you have, hopefully you were lucky enough to make the acquaintance of an occupational therapist or an occupational therapy assistant.

These health care professionals provide guidance and aid to individuals in regaining as many "skills for the job of living" as necessary or possible. Occupational therapists assist individuals in performing their "occupation or skills for the job of living" which is not just a person's employment or job � it includes anything that a person actively participates in daily, relating to self-maintenance, work, leisure and play. Occupations are ordinary things people do every day.

April is National Occupational Therapy (OT) Month. "Skills for the Job of Living" is the theme designed to communicate what occupational therapy practitioners do.

Occupational therapy has been around since World War I. Today more than 60,000 occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work and strive to help individuals become more independent in the "skills for the job of living." Occupational therapists must complete a bachelor or master degree and occupational therapy assistants must complete an associate degree. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants must pass a national exam to become certified, and are required to become recertified every year by completing continuing education hours.

The occupational therapy department at Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital employs two part-time occupational therapists, Amy Hertz and Lisa Dangler. The occupational therapy department at Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital was developed three years ago and is growing very rapidly. The occupational therapy department provides services for Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus which includes inpatients, outpatients, home health clients and the individuals residing in the nursing home. The occupational therapy department is part of the physical medicine department which also includes physical and speech therapy.

The occupational therapy department at Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital provides services for a wide variety of diagnoses, including knee and hip replacements; pinning and repair of broken bones; stroke (cerebrovascular accident); head injury; neurological disorders such as Parkinson's Disease; cardiac disorders; repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome; and a wide variety of other debilitating illnesses and injuries.

Therapy consists of assessing an individual's level of function, establishing goals, and developing and performing a treatment program designed to meet an individual's goals to increase their level of independence. Occupational therapists assess an individual's physical condition (strength, endurance, coordination, balance, etc.), cognition (memory, problem solving skills, safety awareness, etc.), psychological well being, and visual awareness skills as they relate to daily living skills (dressing, cooking, parenting, typing, etc.). Occupational therapists assess the individual's previous level of function, current environmental setup (home or work), support system and skills necessary for them to meet their goals regarding daily living skills.

Based on the assessment and information gathered regarding the patient, occupational therapists design a treatment program which can change as the patient's goals, medical status, support system, etc., change. The occupational therapist's treatment program may include therapeutic activity/exercise; educating patients; family members on new ways of performing various daily living tasks; providing and teaching patients with the use of adaptive equipment; performing home evaluations to determine if an individual is able to safely move about in their homes and offering suggestions to increase an individual's level of independence in their home; and providing suggestions to places of employment to increase an individual's independence and safety within the work environment.

For instance, an individual recovering from the effects of a stroke may have difficulty getting in and out of a tub secondary to poor coordination and strength on one side, decreased balance, and decreased depth perception (unable to visually judge distances). The occupational therapist develops a treatment program consisting of various therapeutic activities which are designed to aid this individual in safely getting in and out of a tub. Various therapeutic activities may include exercises to increase strength, coordination and balance or visual perceptual tasks to improve visual depth perception skills. The occupational therapists teach the individual new ways of getting in and out of the tub utilizing adaptive equipment such as a tub chair or grab bar in the tub. The occupational therapist may make a visit to the individual's home to ensure a proper and safe set up and to make sure the individual is able to get in and out of the tub safety in their own environment.

This is just one example of a way an occupational therapist utilizes their expertise to aid in increasing an individual's independence. Occupational therapists take a holistic approach when treating a patient: they evaluate and treat all daily living skills of each individual person in order for them to continue their "job of living."

For more information on occupational therapy or how it could benefit you or a member of your family, please call the occupational therapy department at Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus at 624-2611 ext. 334.

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