For people with chronic pain, injuries, disabilities and certain health conditions, everyday activities, like participating in work or school or completing household chores, can be extremely difficult. Occupational therapy (OT) – a type of therapy that focuses on developing the strengths and skills required for routine tasks and activities – helps people with these conditions function independently and safely in their daily lives. This, in turn, could improve their overall health and quality of life.

We spoke with two of MountainView Hospital’s occupational therapists to learn more about their world of therapy and how patients benefit from occupational therapy.

What is occupational therapy, exactly?

“Occupational therapy is the practice of using meaningful tasks paired with an understanding of anatomical references to create a functional outcome for our patients,” says Mason Stanley, MountainView Hospital Occupational Therapist.

 Occupational Therapy is a vital aspect of healthcare as it uses therapeutic use of daily activities and occupation to heal and rehabilitate people through a variety of age ranges.

“Occupational therapists do not only work on physical well-being but also incorporate cognitive, social and visual health into their programs,” says Raina Williamson, OTR/L. “It’s important for individuals to be able to perform their daily life activities with independence and pride so they can be contributing members of our community.”

Who could benefit from occupational therapy?

“The beautiful thing about OT, is that it can benefit anybody throughout their lifespan, from newborns to advanced age populations,” says Stanley. “Anyone who may have any deficits in their “occupation” or meaningful activities can benefit from OT.”

Patients’“occupations” may range from activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, toileting, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and even social participation.

“We work with patients as young as babies in the NICU all the way to palliative care,” says Williamson. “Occupational therapy is even present in the school system for children who have special needs, prison systems, military, and even in the video game industry!”

Though Occupational Therapy is a big part of a patient’s inpatient rehabilitation program, occupational therapy often begins early on in a person’s complicated medical journey.  MountainView also has a dedicated team of Occupational Therapists that perform evaluations and initiate plans of care for our patients in the acute hospital setting. Often times the therapist can identify and assist with needs that will allow the patient to go home, instead of requiring intensive inpatient rehab.

Are programs personalized?

“Yes! Here at MountainView, occupational therapists create a plan of care after an in-depth assessment of the client’s factors which include their values, beliefs, body functions and structure,” says Stanley. “Based off the results of the assessments, deficits may be identified that may include physical or cognitive deficits, or both. Then, mutual goals are set by the therapist and patient in a client-centered approach.”

At MountainView Hospital’s Inpatient Rehabilitation unit, all patients are admitted with physical therapy and occupational therapy orders. Occupational therapists evaluate patients and establish a plan of care as per patients’ needs.

Sometimes, that plan of care can incorporate patients’ hobbies that are seen as daily activities. Patients can be found cooking, baking, cleaning, swinging golf balls, and even pushing a grocery cart around the unit and grabbing “groceries.”

“During a patient’s length of stay, our OTs provide patients with any adaptive equipment they may need to independently be able to perform their activities of daily living like bathing, toileting, dressing, and cooking,” says Williamson.

Patients also receive recommendations for home modifications to patients and families that will allow the patient to remain in their homes and be safe. OTs can complete family training sessions with patients’ families in order to ensure that family members are able to safely assist our patients at home.

“Since we focus on function, one of our top priorities is to help our patients work on goals that may be anywhere from relearning how to eat all the way to getting back onto a golf course and everything in between!” says Stanley.

“I personally enjoy seeing the joy on our patients’ faces when they are able to take care of themselves again without asking someone to assist them,” says Williamson. “Sometimes it’s a simple task of being able to sit at the sink and put make-up on or shave on their own. It’s tremendously rewarding to be able to discharge a patient home at an independent level of function after seeing them come into rehab requiring a high level of assistance with the simplest daily tasks.”

The team of occupational therapists at MountainView Hospital believe that meaningful purpose provides meaningful change for their patients. Occupational therapists take great care in building a supportive rapport with their patients in order to dive deep into their self-identified interests and hobbies. OTs pride themselves in ensuring their patients not only return to their prior level of function but also enjoy the rehab process along the way.

If you’re interested in developing an occupational therapy program for yourself or a loved one, be sure to talk to your doctor. They will help determine whether or not occupational therapy is the right course of treatment. For more information about our rehab services, visit our website.