“One reason people often don’t understand occupational therapy is because the name is so misleading,” said FMH Home Health Occupational Therapist Michelle McGee. “The word ‘occupational’ sounds like we focus on job-related tasks, and that’s not it at all. What we really do is help patients who have lost some or all of their ability to perform everyday tasks to do those same activities—just in a different way.”
“For example, patients who have progressive muscular diseases, or have suffered a stroke or a head injury, may need to learn how to dress, bathe, shave, cook or empty the dishwasher all over again. The job of an occupational therapist is to get to know the patient, determine what deficits are present, and help them relearn how to continue to perform all those ‘Activities of Daily Living,’ also known as ‘ADLs,’ safely and effectively.
Occupational therapists also play an important role in cognitive rehabilitation for patients whose attention, problem solving, judgment, or reasoning have been affected by stroke, Alzheimer’s and other dementias and traumatic brain injuries. They also work with patients who deal with chronic respiratory distress or shortness of breath to breathe more efficiently, conserve energy and find ways to continue to be independent.
“I have viral asthma, so I get out of breath easy,” said patient Elizabeth “Bea” Adams. “I also have stiffness in my joints, especially my shoulders. I just couldn’t do the things I used to do by myself, and I was getting worried. But the therapist came in here and taught me some shortcuts that I never thought of. They helped me learn new ways to get dressed, and brought me some tools that make everyday things a little easier.”
“There is significant evidence that the brain has a greater capacity than we realized to redirect pathways and relearn skills, even many years after damage has occurred,” says McGee. “Considering the increasing number of people with disease or injury-related cognitive disorders, that’s really good news.”
“My husband and I have been married for more than 50 years,” said Mrs. Adams. “We both feel lucky that we have the nurses and therapists from FMH Home Health to come in and help us be safe and stay comfortable in our own home.”