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How an Occupational Therapist (OT) Can Help You During COVID-19

Posted by Katelyn Chilcote

| Occupational Therapy

WOOHOO, we made it to 2021! Even though 2020 is in our rearview mirror, the lingering effects of COVID-19 are still very much still with us, unfortunately. What we knew as a normal life has been completely disrupted by a global pandemic, and the role of the occupational therapist (OT) has never been more significant.  

An OT uses the occupational therapy framework to consider how productivity, leisure, self-care, personal space, routine and roles may be impacted during COVID-19.  Then, they use their creativity to present suggestions and examples of how to adapt and manage one's life despite these disruptions.

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As you would expect, one's daily routine, lifestyle, office work, financial plans, future and overall life balance has been interrupted.  This has left many to cope with sudden changes that often lead to stress, anxiety, familial discord, sleep cycle disruption, lack of physical activity, lethargy, pain and more. 

In turn, an OT recognizes these consequences and changes that occur as a result of COVID-19.  Through an individualized and holistic approach, an OT plans interventions that successfully meet the needs of our most vulnerable population. 

OT Interventions during COVID-19 include:

  • accessing resources
  • re-establishing activities of daily living
  • reintegrating back into the community with infection control measures
  • gaining access to technology and communication
  • improving mobility, balance and strength due to more time spent at home
  • coping with social isolation
  • occupational deprivation communication
  • mobility
  • issues with mental health and wellbeing

Interventions for those 65+:

OTs use assessment and adaptation of the environment to assist in promoting occupational engagement and re-establishing social supports and networks through technology.

  • church and exercise class on Facebook live
  • zoom conferences with family
  • tea with friends
  • bible study groups
  • usage of apps for food, grocery and prescription delivery services

Other OT treatment interventions that can help clients of all ages are:

  • mask tolerance techniques
  • education on donning and doffing techniques
  • mask preservation
  • health literacy
  • how to set up and gain access to technology and social media
  • money management techniques through using online banking
  • setting up credit card on apps for delivery services
  • preparing our clients for community reintegration or discharging home in a world that is slightly different
  • positioning for maximizing respiratory functioning
  • bed mobility
  • pulmonary rehab
  • communication management to increase social participation
  • cognition training and re-orientation
  • sensory stimulation
  • energy conservation and mental wellness through decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms

These are just a few ways an OT can help you not just survive during a pandemic, but even thrive!

Author Bio:

Katelyn Chilcote, COTA is a facility coordinator for Therapy Specialists and works in a geriatric setting with programs in memory care, outpatient rehab, and skilled nursing. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with an Occupational Therapy Assistance Degree and a Bachelor’s in Psychology. She further her studies at Colorado State University where she received a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Healthcare Management. She has been a COTA for over nine years and has gained valuable experience and knowledge from a wide variety of practice settings including pediatric inpatient, outpatient and school-based, acute inpatient rehab, veterans homes, mental health, memory care, outpatient geriatric rehab, skilled nursing, and home health. One of the reasons she loves the field of occupational therapy is because of the wide range of opportunities it encompasses. She takes great pride in her patient-centered approach and has always found it a little magical to learn about another human being. By focusing on the person and understanding their special set of circumstances, creativity sparks and lives can be changed, even if it’s mastering a small gain.