By Melinda Roy & Wendy Stone, Grace Cottage Occupational Therapists
April is Occupational Therapy month—the perfect opportunity to tell you what we love about our jobs!
Occupational Therapists (OTs) at Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital provide care to people who suffer from a wide range of impairments. We provide care to people who are patients in the hospital and also to people who live at home and receive care in the Wolff Outpatient Clinic.
The sudden onset of an illness or injury can cause a major change in a person’s functional capabilities. OTs provide individualized treatment to promote a return to everyday activities such as getting dressed, cooking a meal, or taking the dog for a walk.
The inpatient OT treatment plan focuses on helping a person regain independence with self-care skills and mobility to enable them to return home. The outpatient OT plan of care provides treatment to those people who are living in the community and require services to help them to overcome limitations that interfere with their ability to be successful in their lives.
One of the best things about being an Occupational Therapist is that we get to know each patient—to gain an understanding of what is important to them, what motivates them, and what they hope to achieve. Discovering a person’s “intrinsic motivation” is a key component used by OTs to help people. Identifying a person’s intrinsic motivation involves finding out what is meaningful and purposeful to each individual. Once a person’s goals are identified, the OTs determine what is preventing them from achieving their goals and create a plan of care to support that person to overcome their deficits.
One example that illustrates how we tapped into a person’s intrinsic motivation is this story of a retired professional baker who was hospitalized following a medical event. She had never missed a year of baking a cake for her grandson’s birthday. She lacked the stamina and the balance to stand at the counter to perform the task. She also lacked the upper body strength to perform the mixing and the decoration of the cake. The OT worked with this woman to make a plan for overcoming her limitations. She made the cake batter while sitting on a stool, which placed her at counter height for the mixing. She took rest breaks when her arms were tired and she used adaptive utensils to help her grip the tools. She baked and decorated the cake, then presented it to her grandson when he came to visit her at the hospital on his birthday. It was such a joy to support this woman in achieving her goal of baking the birthday cake—and to witness the joy of her grandson when he received his cake!
Another example of supporting a person’s intrinsic motivation was treatment provided to a gardener who was hospitalized due to a medical illness. This young woman expressed how much she loved to grow tomatoes. It was Spring and she was yearning to start some seeds. The OT gathered the seeds, the soil, and the pots for her to plant the tomato seeds, which she kept on her windowsill. She took pride in watering her seeds daily. This involved her getting into the wheelchair and wheeling to the sink and then over to the window to water the seeds. Before long, she began walking to the windowsill, using a walker with a basket attachment. This woman’s stay at Grace Cottage was long enough that she was able to bring her tomato plants outside and plant them into the raised garden beds on the patio. Ultimately, she saw her tomato plants begin to flower before she was discharged to go home!
In the Wolff Outpatient Clinic, we had a client who sustained a wrist injury from repetitive use. He experienced sharp pain in his wrist when he moved it towards the side of his little finger. Some of his daily activities required this lateral motion, such as reaching for the seat belt, washing his hair, and chopping vegetables. His goals were to achieve pain control and to be able to get back to kayaking. The OT treatment included thermal modalities (ice and ultrasound), wrist stretching and strengthening, the use of a wrist brace, adaptive equipment recommendations, and activity modifications. He purchased a tool that clipped onto the seat belt to help him avoid the painful motion. He explored ergonomic paddle options designed to reduce the extreme wrist range of motion. And we discussed changing his body mechanics while he paddled the kayak. We hope these interventions will enable him to get out on the kayak this summer!
Being an Occupational Therapist at Grace Cottage is a real honor. It is an honor to have the opportunity to provide care to a diverse population of people. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to support people through a challenging moment in their lives, and to help them achieve restored health. And it is very rewarding to help people achieve their meaningful and purposeful goals!