Physical and mental ailments affect us in so many ways, sometimes even preventing us from carrying out what at one time were the most everyday and mundane of activities for us. For Victorians suffering in this way, it takes a professional health care team in Melbourne to get people back on their feet, and in particular it takes the help of an occupational therapist.
What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?
When we are facing any kind of illness or problem that impacts our ability to live normally and independently from day to day, an occupational therapist may come along with special therapeutic techniques that use our everyday activities and occupations to rehabilitate our capacity.
In a physical sense, it might be that we’ve lost our conventional strength, sense of balance or coordination, perhaps after suffering through something like a car accident or a stroke. We might be fine in most other ways, but without that strength we once had, we might not be able to even lift a kettle full of water, cut wood for a fire, or haul heavy grocery bags. A course of occupational therapy (OT) can help restore that strength to us.
Common mental abilities that an occupational therapist may help us with include memory, organisation skills, and coping strategies after something like a bereavement or being diagnosed with a particular illness.
The practice of OT is not always about overcoming a disability or other physical/mental obstacle outright. More often, the broader goal is to help patients recover a normal, independent lifestyle where they can use the abilities they still have and thus better cope with and adapt to a new situation.
How Does an Occupational Therapist Benefit Patients?
There are some who might wonder why OT is really beneficial if the main goal isn’t to cure people of what ails them. The fact is that there are many situations that occupational therapists help with that are not a “cure or no cure” situation, for example a patient who has lost a limb in an accident, or due to an illness. There’s no “cure” but the patient does need help to cope with their new limitations.
Broadly speaking, OT benefits patients by helping them first with coping and adapting to new situations, and secondly by helping people restore a broken life to normality.
1. Coping and Adapting
So, the first and most important benefit is that OT benefits patients in that it helps them adapt to new physical and mental realities. Learning to get around any limitations that have been foisted upon them allows them to live a much more normal, fulfilling and enjoyable life. There are so many instances where patients may start to feel extremely low, even depressed, as they imagine their future while going through whatever is happening to them.
What an occupational therapist does in many ways is help change that pessimistic vision into a more hopeful one by demonstrating the alternatives. Imagine someone whose neck injury had them convinced they’d never be able to indulge in their favourite pastime of cooking again. An occupational therapist knows, for example, that changes to the layout of the kitchen, such as raising the countertops, might well be the key to them retaining that little pleasure in life.
In other cases, OT can absolutely help people regain lost strengths and abilities, which in turn helps people return to their normal pre-ailment life, regain their abilities in sports, to return to work or school, and to continue to live independently. This marks a significant improvement compared to a pre-therapy situation in which they may have been looking at extended hospital stays, prolonged periods of physical or mental care in institutions, and more.