TMH Living Well: Occupational therapy helps patients regain independence
TMH now offers comprehensive occupational therapy
May 23, 2014
Do you have an elderly parent who has arthritis and struggles to complete daily tasks? Has a loved one had a stroke or traumatic brain injury and needs to regain skills to remain independent? Does your child have a disability and need to improve her fine motor and self-care skills?
If any of these situations are familiar, you or your loved one could benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is used in many situations to help people regain independence and learn how to adapt to a changing situation that affects their daily living.
The Memorial Hospital is happy to announce that it now offers full-spectrum occupational therapy services on an inpatient and outpatient basis. "I am really excited to put my specialty skills to use at TMH," said Jill Jonas, OTR, who joined the hospital in early May.
Helping brains function better
Occupational therapy can help people regain abilities after neurological conditions that affect the brain. Examples include brain injuries and stroke.
"As an occupational therapist, I have special training to help people retrain neurological pathways to enhance motor control and thinking skills, including executive functioning. When injury occurs, the brain may tell the arm to move, but it doesn't. Helping the brain and body re-establish neurological connections can enhance a person's independence," Jonas said.
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Occupational therapy also helps with general aging issues including helping elderly individuals stay in their homes or cope with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and memory loss. Another is addressing changes that affect the daily lives for people with Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis by teaching adaptive strategies and self-management techniques. A part of the therapy also includes training family members on supporting the individual.
Recovering from surgery, upper extremity and overuse injuries
Occupational therapists often see patients in the hospital after orthopedic surgery to provide training on how to adjust to the temporary loss of use or range of motion of an arm or leg. As an example, physical therapists may work on regaining strength in an arm after a shoulder surgery, while an occupational therapist teaches individuals how to perform tasks with one hand while recovering. Overuse injuries, such as carpal tunnel, also are improved with occupational therapy, as is regaining abilities after cancer treatments.
We use our hands constantly and for many different things, some vital to our basic living needs such as with eating, others vital to our independence as with driving. A unique part of occupational therapy is "hand therapy." Hand therapists can help people with arthritis or other hand injuries regain strength and ability.
"I am currently advancing my skill set in hand therapy and am happy to begin providing this very specialized service," she said.
Hand therapy has many applications. Due to progressive diagnoses, people start losing the ability to grip or hold objects, making opening a jar, holding a glass or preparing a meal difficult.
"I've even helped a stroke patient return to golfing. By making a glove out of specific material and retraining his brain to send signals to grip the club, he could enjoy his sport again," Jonas said.
Jonas finds her career as an occupational therapist very rewarding: "With occupational therapy, I can help people go from being a patient, to feeling like a person again. It is very empowering to help people become more independent and to have a better quality of life," she stated.
Local comprehensive OT option benefits patients
"At TMH, we are proud to provide several occupational therapies here in Craig. Our patients have had to drive out of town to receive some care, which is a true burden especially when driving is complicated by a hand injury or stroke. Having comprehensive care in town will mean patients will more easily get the complete care they need," Jonas concluded.
To explore whether seeing an occupational therapist would help you or a loved one, talk to your doctor or call The Memorial Hospital's Rehabilitation Services Department at 970-824-5992.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.