Most Occupational Therapists (OTs) agree – occupational therapy can be difficult to define. Perhaps the closest to a brief definition comes from the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists:
Occupational Therapy is a health profession that EMPOWERS people of all ages to overcome barriers in their everyday lives so they can DO MORE and LIVE BETTER!
At the North East CCAC, we concur!
OTs perform a broad but important role at the North East Community Care Access Centre. They may provide a simple, "common sense" suggestion that greatly impacts the patient, or they may be part of a complex solution that involves many facets. They often see clients who are having difficulty with transfers (getting in and out of bed/tub/shower or on and off chairs/toilet); have difficulty safely getting around their homes and could benefit from a manual or power wheelchair; have accessibility issues in their homes (wheelchair user who has steps to enter their home, doors are too narrow for the wheelchair, etc.); have pressure sores or are at risk of developing pressure sores; or have difficulty managing daily activities such as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, etc. In all of these areas, occupational therapists can work with patients to find solutions to increase their independence.
When CCAC Occupational Therapist Marj Almond first became involved with Velma Fregonese and her caregiver daughter, Sandra, with whom she lives, Velma was having serious challenges with mobility, to the point where walking anywhere, even within her home, was unsafe.
"Marj basically came in and assessed my mother's abilities – using bathroom facilities, getting in and out of the house, her bed, the bath, using stairs, even getting from the living room to the kitchen," says Sandra.
Marj provided several recommendations, all of which were followed up on. For example, Velma had had a walker for getting around inside her home, and a scooter for outings, for many years. Now, thanks to Marj's suggestion, she also has a manual wheelchair for days when she is unable to use her walker. The house has been equipped with grab bars in the bathroom and bedroom, and a shower seat has been purchased.
Thanks to Marj's assistance, the family applied for funding through the March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program, and were approved for a wheelchair/scooter lift for their vehicle. They have also applied for a deck lift, which will allow Velma to safely go in and out of the house. In fact, Sandra cites Marj's continued advocacy in assisting Velma to access various community resources, as another great benefit of working with an Occupational Therapist.
"This has been huge for us," Sandra says emphatically. "I don't worry about my mom anymore when I'm at work – I know she can get around the house safely and daily tasks of living can be accomplished. It is a much better quality of life for all of us."
Sandra admits that without the support of the North East CCAC, her mother would probably be in long-term care at this point. "I think it is important that people know this help is available, and how valuable occupational therapy can be if you need it. It can sure make peoples' lives a lot easier."
For more information on the occupational therapy services available through the North East CCAC, please visit our website, at www.healthcareathome.ca/northeast.