The basic definition for an occupational therapist is one who assists a multitude of different people in finding independence or “normalcy” in their everyday lives. Many of these patients have some sort of illness or disorder that inhibits normal living. These people can range from children who were born with a disability to the elderly who are going through a difficult time with the loss of agility or mobility. Occupational therapists help people regain skills or learn new ones that will make their everyday lives easier.
The types of services occupational therapists offer include evaluations with the client and family to determine what goals would like to be met, creating an intervention and plan for helping the patient reach these goals, and ensure the goals are being worked towards and met long term. Occupational therapists not only assist their patients firsthand but also monitor them long-term to ensure that success is being met.
Types of Occupational Therapy
During and after your education and schooling in the field of occupational therapy you will probably find that there are many settings in which you can work. The area you will work is dependent upon what type of patient you would like to work with and what unique skills they will require with therapy.
Once you have obtained your degree in occupational therapy you will be able to pursue whichever specialization you wish. These specializations may include pediatric, hand therapy, adult rehabilitation, vision rehabilitation, assisted living care and much more. New opportunities of work settings are opening up for occupational therapy every day.
Locations for Occupational Therapy
The location and area in which you practice occupational therapy really depends on what types of patients you are working with. Some therapists may work in one individual area or a number of them. These locations include schools, detention centers, clinics (public and independent), communities (city and rural), corporate areas and health centers. Some therapists may work entirely with other medical professionals at their locations.
Occupational Therapy for Children
Working as a pediatric occupational therapist is a rewarding job. There is an abundance of children who require the assistance of an occupational therapist to reach their true potential and independence in life. A child with a congenital disease, injury or illness that has caused life-altering effects may benefit from occupational therapy services. Other children who require occupational therapy might have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, PDD, Autism, Cerebral palsy, or anxiety disorders.
Occupational therapists help children acquire and maintain the skills required to engage in everyday life. Finding creative and meaningful activities is an essential key in assisting those children to participate in self-care, school, and social settings. Pediatric occupational therapists work closely with the child’s family, caregivers, and the educational team, in order to come up with the best therapy program and intervention strategies.
Occupational Therapy for Adult
The general population that is commonly seen by occupational therapists is adult of various ages. Adults who require occupational therapy may include those with disorders (developmental and psychological), illness or injuries, and finally, those who are going through a major life change or crisis.
Occupational therapists working with adults often help their clients become more independent and improve the way they function. Sometimes this requires the use of certain technology, assistive devices, or adjustments to the client’s environment. In some settings, such as rehab or hospitals, the occupational therapist role is to assist their client to relearn the basic skills that might have been lost due to illness or injury. These skills may include, but are not limited to, eating, dressing, walking and mobility, communication, and the use of assisting devices. In other settings, such as mental health, occupational therapists may help their clients find strategies that will promote engagement in meaningful activities, which in turn improve the quality of their life.
The help that adults require is highly dependent on the individual person. There will be occasions in which “normalcy” won’t be possible for certain adults. In the event of this situation, it is important that occupational therapists help their client get to the highest level possible through the use of strategies that can be used within their limitations.
Occupational Therapy for the Elderly
Occupational therapy for elderly people is growing due to the baby boomer generation aging as well as technological advances allowing for longer lives. Many of the occupational therapists who specialize with the elderly are working with those who have age-related diseases and ailments or may have suffered from heart attacks and strokes.
Those who have suffered from a recent stroke or heart attack may have a difficult time adjusting to their now limited abilities and independence. In extreme cases, these people may have to essentially relearn daily life tasks from scratch. Other elderly people may be suffering from debilitating disorders and diseases such as arthritis. Learning to use assistive devices due to loss of agility and balance is another area that the elderly may need help with.