Occupational Therapy

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Early June 2011 my grandfather suffered a minor stroke at the age of 76. He was quickly admitted to John Muir in Walnut Creek, a few days went by and he only seemed to be getting worse; when unfortunately my family’s worst nightmare became a reality. My grandfather endured another stroke, but this time it was much more serious. This put my family in an enormous amount of emotional distress, everyone was terrified and we had no idea what was going to happen to my grandfather. It happened so fast, all we wanted were answers. But, when we got answers, they were far from what we wanted to hear. A few days after my grandfather’s second stroke my family met with his doctors who showed little hope or optimism. They told us we were lucky he was still alive, but with the condition he was in now we were never going to see him walk again, he would probably never talk again, and he was definitely never going to be able to live independently ever again. As he kept explaining to us what was going to happen to my grandfather’s life, the words cut like daggers. My cousins and I watched our parents bewail with sorrow as we just sat aside our grandfather’s hospital bed feeling helpless and confused.

About a month went by while my grandfather was still in John Muir, and his progress was nothing to rave about. We would visit him daily, but he never seemed to be getting much better. He couldn’t eat, talk, or move, but we just reminded him to keep fighting and we knew, with hope, he would be able to make a substantial recovery. When my grandfather was dismissed from the John Muir hospital in Walnut Creek, he moved into the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Leandro. While in San Leandro, he started to receive more intense therapy, his recovery was slow but we started seeing improvements; he was able to eat solid food, without a pump, began to talk again. While visiting my grandfather in San Leandro I was introduced to occupational therapy for the first time. I had no idea what occupational therapists did or even what occupational therapy was, but as I sat in on a few of my grandfather’s sessions I became very interested.

According to the World Federation of Occupational Therapy, “occupational therapy is a profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through engagement in occupation." But, when I sat down and talked with Julie Roberts, an in-home occupational therapist, she sighed, “[describing what OTs do is] really the hardest part of the job; there are so many different things we do and everyone has their own individual qualifications.” When Julie goes into a home to meet with her clients for the first time, she greets them with a smile and tells them she’s there to “help them with their job of living.” Occupational therapy is an integral part of the therapeutic aspects of a person’s recovery. Although many people may see OTs for physical disabilities, it’s also very common for someone to go to an OT for help with their mental or emotional state. Since everyone suffers uniquely from their various disabilities, typically the therapeutic process begins with an “individualized evaluation during which the client, their family and their occupational therapist determine the individual’s goals” leading to “a customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach his/her goals” and once their therapy is over an “evaluation to monitor progression towards meeting the client’s goals” is conducted.

Occupational therapists focus on “adapting the environment, modifying the task, teaching the skill, and educating the client/family in order to increase participation in and performance of daily activities.” “For instance, teaching an elderly woman with a hip replacement how to get in and out of the bath tub while minimizing her fall risk, or helping a man recovering from a car accident use grabbers to reach things to keep his back safe.” According to Roberts the most important part of her job is...
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