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The Importance of Occupational Therapy: Restoring Dignity in Daily Living

Posted by Elizabeth Barnes

| Occupational Therapy

A hospital admission can quickly change the state of someone's autonomy. Often being admitted will mean someone else you’ve never met will make most decisions about your life while you are in the hospital.

Your sense of self, what you can and cannot do, is often being orchestrated by people coming in and out of your room as they work busily through their day to day job duties, seeing many other patients. This means you may be restricted from doing “simple” tasks that you have always taken for granted. These include:

  • Getting a drink of water
  • Changing into a new set of clothes
  • Grabbing a book or magazine to read

Depending on why you're in the hospital, how many machines are attached to you, and how much staff is available to assist you, these everyday tasks are either skipped or completed for you by someone else. What happens to your independence and dignity when you can no longer just get up and take care of your needs?

Actions like getting a drink of water, putting on a clean shirt or standing in front of the sink to brush your teeth, transform from a “simple” task into an ordeal. But these actions make up our daily lives and are a piece of the independence that is missed once your medical status affects your ability to take care of yourself.  

When people are admitted to the hospital, they can quickly become stuck in the role of being ‘sick’. This can be one of the biggest hurtles an Occupational Therapist (OT) will face with a patient in acute care.

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They will work with the patient to transform their mindset into one of self-reliance, brining tremendous satisfaction and aiding a patient’s wellness both physically and mentally. The key is that OT's are not dictating circumstances to the person in acute care. Instead, they are working with the patient to regain their independence, and listen to what is important to them. These are all things that busy hospital staff often do not have time to do.

Getting out of the hospital bed is a major first step for many patients in acute care. Sitting at the edge of the bed to wash your face, sitting on a toilet or feeding yourself are stepping stones towards a mindset of going from a dependent to a productive person. 

What tools are available to regain your ability to complete these tasks on your own? This is where Occupational Therapy enters the picture. An Occupational Therapist will work with patients step by step to accommodate their new normal.

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This could be using special tools or completing an old task in a new way. OT's are trained to evaluate not just a patient individually, but their entire environment and find ways to make adjustments so that normal daily activities become less burdensome.

Occupational therapists have the skill and training to bring the art of living to patient through typical daily activities, which is part of the founding principles here at Therapy Specialists.

This helps bring a sense of normalcy and empowerment to a situation that is often very distressing and disheartening to many people. Being allowed and able to take care of ourselves and be responsible for activities like bathing, dressing, and toileting brings humanity and dignity into the acute care setting.

If you're interested in learning more about how occupational therapy can improve your life or the life of a loved one, contact us today. 

Author Bio:

Liz has worked in a variety of settings as an occupational therapist over the last 14 years including school based private practice, mild traumatic brain injury for the military, acute rehab and most recently skilled nursing. She is passionate about passing down her knowledge to others and has worked with numerous OT students over the past few years. She enjoys the complex and challenging field of geriatrics and feels a great sense of accomplishment every day as serves patients through the skilled nursing facility and outpatient therapy services.