Most patients, and unfortunately too many physicians, are unsure exactly what an occupational therapist (OT) does. It’s simple, really. An OT wants to help you break away from the limitations illness may have placed on your life. The OT wants you to live life to the fullest.
Virtually any physical or emotional condition undeniably limits your ability to function at 100%, to engage fully in what therapists call the activities of daily living, ADLs for short. With chronic pain, for example, or chronic fatigue, you gradually find yourself increasingly hemmed in by disability. You plan ahead for the simplest of tasks. Can I make it up the stairs? Can I get my groceries in? How can I not lose my job? Should I apply for long-term disability? Worst of all looms the question “Is this always going to be my life?”
An OT teaches such skills as conserving energy, modifying your home and workplace environments, and reducing both pain and stress.
But occupational therapy isn’t limited to the physical. If you’re emotionally depressed or chronically anxious, you’re not thinking at your best. You feel your efficiency’s in a free fall and you wonder if there isn’t something you can do to help all this (aren’t there brain exercises or something?).
The answer is yes. Even a condition like adult attention deficit disorder (ADD) can benefit from occupational therapy. Taking your ADD meds, you discover that they help with memory, focus, and concentration. But soon you realize the truth behind the ADD adage “Pills don’t teach skills.” Now that you’re more focused and attentive, you’d like help getting your life organized and your schedule efficiently managed.
So whether she’s dealing with physical challenges or mental/emotional limitations, remember that “Live your life to the fullest” is the OT’s goal.