What is the Role of Occupational Therapy in Short Term Rehabilitation?

Occupational therapy is an essential element of any short term rehabilitation program. The occupational plays several important roles in the program, helping the patient on the road to recovery.

Occupational therapy for ADLs

The main purpose of occupational therapy is that it helps the patient with ADLs and IADLs – activities for daily living, and instrumental activities for daily living. What’s the difference? ADLs are the most basic functions for living independently – dressing, taking care of hygiene, eating. IADLs are a level up, and they demonstrate a patient’s ability to live on his own – managing finances, getting from place to place, meal preparation, and home maintenance. What does this have to do with occupational therapy? Everything. The occupational therapist’s main job is to give the patient the skills and techniques he needs to perform ADLs. For example, if the patient needs to sit for a bath or shower, she’ll recommend the right chair and help the patient learn how to move from a wheelchair into the shower chair and back.

People often confuse physical and occupational therapy, and there are similarities. However, while the job of the physical therapist is to strengthen the patient’s body and learn physical activities, the job os the occupational therapist is to teach the patient how to use his body to perform functions, or occupations.

Part of the challenge for the therapist and the patient is learning new ways to perform old functions. For example, a patient might newly need an ambulatory device or prosthetic, and he’ll need to learn how to do things in a new way using his new devices.

Setting the patient up for success

Another part of the occupational therapist’s job is to make sure the patient’s home is set up for any new modes of functioning. She will make recommendations for changing things in the home to make it easier for the patient to function well, such as adding ramps over stairs or moving beds to the first floor, and she’ll recommend the best ways to make it happen. She’ll also work with the family to teach them ways to help the patients achieve success in functioning at home. She can also visit the patient’s place of employment to see how the patient can go back to his job with any necessary changes in workplace structure. For example, if the patient is recovering from leg surgery, she can teach the patient the right way to sit in his work chair to alleviate stress on the leg and potentially recommend a better chair to help him sit most comfortably in a way that will allow the leg to heal.

Working with the facility staff

The occupational therapist works with the staff at the short term rehabilitation facility to create effective programs for the residents. She can teach the staff to identify concerning behaviors so they can be addresses early and successfully. She will also give input into creating the right overall program to enhance the patient’s progress.

At the Alameda Center, we have a strong occupational therapy program to help our patients maximize their short term rehabilitation program.

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