Occupational Therapy in Rehabilitation

Occupational therapy is a crucial part of rehabilitation and unarguably among the most important aspects of the overall rehabilitation plan because this is the aspect of the personalized therapy plan that finally lets a patient function independently following a long stay in the hospital as well as the rehabilitation centre. To understand occupational therapy better, we must consider this question, which when answered will give us an insight into what occupational therapy consists of and why it is an essential part of the recovery program of the patient.

What are the functions carried out by a person on a day to day basis?

Keeping in mind, of course, a standard normally functioning adult human being who is not suffering from any neurological disorders and is able to carry out the basic functions of movement and locomotion without external aid.

A day to day routine of a regular adult includes waking up in the morning, brushing one’s own teeth, showering, getting physically ready for work- which involves wearing and buttoning one’s clothes and putting shoes on, possibly cooking and feeding themselves before heading out to work where they function productively and communicate with others for various reasons using verbal and non verbal media of communication. They might also drive to work and back home.

Now, what happens when a person is suffering from a neurological condition? How does this affect his or her day to day functioning?

Depending on the location and type of the lesion, the impact of the neurological condition may extent anywhere between the loss of one of the abilities listed above or all of them. Which means that the patient may either not be able to perform certain functions such as movement and locomotion without support. They may have lost their ability of speech and comprehension which includes the loss of function of either hearing or speaking, if the muscles of swallowing are also involved, then the person will not be able to communicate his or her needs efficiently to the outside world. Specific lesions in specific areas of the brain may result in the loss of just one of the mental faculties- for example, the person may be able to read and comprehend and speak but their speech might be incomprehensible to others. This is a condition where the person knows what he or she is saying and can indicate through other methods exactly what they’re trying to communicate- just not verbally. This happens when there is a lesion of the speech cortex. Such people can be helped by teaching them effective means of alternative communications. There are also conditions where the patients are not able to respond clearly to a question asked but are fluent in their speech- which is to say that they do not know and are not aware of what they are speaking about but their speech is generally fluent and irrelevant to the context.

Hence to assist such people as well as those who require help to carry out about other basic aspects of their functioning seamlessly, occupational therapy comes into play.

What Does Occupational Therapy Include?

Occupational therapy is a personalized plan that is aimed at enhancing and improving upon any disabilities that have occurred so as to reinstate the basic mental and physical functioning of a person such that they can lead a relatively normal life. The dependency of a person on another to go about their daily routine which includes even the most basic of human needs such as the ability to feed themselves, clothe and wash themselves, leaves the patient in a state of distress.

Occupational therapy is a measure taken to prevent the patient from having to live a life of complete dependence and works upon the aspects of their mental functioning that are lost in coordination with the physical ones thereby rendering the patient capable of functioning regularly and regaining an overall improved quality of life.

This includes the complete diagnosis of the patient such that the exact extend of the problem can be assessed and the resultant treatment plan can be prepared accordingly. Identifying the extent of the problem and weighing it against the need of the patient to sustain a living with additional income to do so, if need be is the primary goal of occupational therapy.  Once a suitable plan has been put together, the core functional skills of the patient are worked upon to maximum limits with constant support and encouragement. This includes physical as well as emotional support to the patient, which has prerequisites of patience and understanding forming the pillars of the therapy plan. The fine motor skills which enable the patient to carry out functions such as holding and grasping objects, writing, etc, picking up things from the floor and so on are worked upon. Along with this, some patients require their gross motor skills to be worked upon as well. This includes the functions of locomotion and so on. In multiple cases, cognitive improvement is also a prerequisite which includes teaching the patient how to effectively communicate as well as understand what is being indicated to them. This is important for the safety of the patient as well as a necessity to carry about a life as normal as possible.

Occupational therapy works best when coordinated with continuous support to the patient emotionally through well-planned psychological therapy programmes which includes interaction with those going through the same condition as them, talking to experienced professionals about how they feel about the situation, group therapies etc. along with this there is also a need to educate the families about the exact condition of the patient and the expected prognosis, how best to look after the patient and support them without making them feel like they are dependent on them.

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