Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

How Occupational Therapy Can Help You Live Your Best Life

Occupational therapy (OT) is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages with an injury, illness, or disability to participate in daily living or live better. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants focus on the things you want and need to do in your daily life and use strategies and interventions to promote health, well-being, and help you regain or maintain the ability to participate in important activities in your life. Activities, or occupations, can range from taking care of yourself and your family, working, volunteering, going to school, among many others.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s OT department is staffed with eight OT professionals who rotate in and out of different campuses. Common OT needs include:

  • Wrist and finger fractures
  • Tendinopathies (tennis and golf elbow)
  • Neurological deficits (post-stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, traumatic brain injuries, etc.)
  • Lacerations (that affect muscles or tendons)
  • Pediatric developmental delays
  • General physical decline.

While many patients are referred to OT by their primary care provider, others are directed to OT after surgery or for issues handled in the Emergency Department or ExpressCare. Regardless of how they arrive, the OT experience typically includes:

  • a personal evaluation/occupational profile, that allows you to share your history, life experiences, interests, and what activities are important to you
  • an intervention plan customized to your condition, goals, and designed to improve your ability to perform daily activities at the highest level of function possible
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure you’re meeting your goals  
  • a customized home-exercise plan and education program tailored to your needs

In addition to patient input, the SVMC OT team works closely with providers across the hospital’s many service areas who refer patients. An OT’s education and training in mental/behavioral health, medical conditions, rehabilitation, and lifestyle management enable them to view patients in a unique context. Together, the physician and OT can craft a plan that work for the specific physical issue but is also sensitive to aspects of the patient’s life including their family role, employment, culture, and value system, as well as the habits and activities that comprise their daily lives.

From helping patients with congestive heart failure find ways to adapt their daily routine to simplify tasks and prevent fatigue, to helping families adjust to living with someone with a broken limb, OT is all about making life better by helping individuals gain the functionality needed to engage in the activities that matter most to them.

If you’re interested in learning if OT is right for you or a loved one, ask your care provider if a referral is appropriate.

Michaelia St. Jacques MSOT, OTR/L, CHT is an occupational therapist and the assistant director of rehabilitation services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation.

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