Healthcare Focus Serving wholeness

Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals dedicated to helping clients adapt to the challenges of everyday life

Occupational therapists construct a therapeutic approach for clients based on each individual’s particular needs and goals. Lindsay Mykes

between many rocks and boulders over the course of its journey. Te current sometimes carries along the remains of fallen trees or other debris. This river is a metaphor used by occupational


therapists (OTs) to describe the experiences, chal- lenges and obstacles a person encounters across the progression of a lifetime. An OT’s role in healthcare is to help a person adapt their tasks or their environment to their current abilities—especially when the client, because of illness, injury or aging, is challenged by the activities of everyday life. In other words, OTs help clients shift the river’s course to help it flow around an obstacle, or remove it completely. Te river metaphor, known as the Kawa model, is

just one of the many philosophies that inform the whole-person approach to healthcare at the founda- tion of all occupational therapy practice. Tey serve the whole person by helping clients achieve goals, improve quality of life, and access services that can help them.

“Meaning and purpose” Te first step to understanding the role of an occupa-

tional therapist within the tapestry of healthcare is to understand the profession’s definition of occupation: “We define occupation as anything that people do in their lives that has meaning or purpose,” says Sheena Warkentin, the clinical service leader for occupational therapy a Deer Lodge Centre. OTs “help people by adapting or retraining them to do the things they want to do, the things that are important to them.” Occupational therapists construct a therapeutic

approach for clients based on each individual’s par- ticular needs and goals. “Why train someone to walk thirty steps, if their goal is to walk the eight steps that will bring them to their bathroom?” says Warkentin. Occupations can be divided into tasks related to

self-care, productivity and leisure. Every occupation is simultaneously under the influence of the person performing it, the environment they’re performing it in, and the occupation itself. OTs look at all three

8 Life.Times

magine a river. It flows down a mountain into a valley. Along the way, the river follows many different paths. Te water runs over, around and

components and how they work together. To help a client achieve a challenging task, for instance, “we may adjust the person by teaching them new skills. We may adjust the occupation, allowing the client to achieve the same outcome in a different way. Or we may modify the environment.” It’s common for OTs working at Deer Lodge Centre

to adapt the environment to the needs of residents and patients—by modifying the bathroom routine, for instance. “We might recommend bars and a raised seat on the toilet, so they can still use the bathroom independently.” New personal care home residents often consult

with occupational therapists upon admission to opti- mize their living space, or to learn a new technology, such as a tablet for communication or a motorized wheelchair for mobility. Creative problem-solvers

Every OT’s practice is tightly tailored to the types of

clients they serve, making the profession as a whole incredibly broad, varied, and frequently innovative. At Deer Lodge Centre, occupational therapists serve

a wide variety of in-patient programs and services, such as the geriatric rehab program and long-term care. Others serve outpatient programs such as the Day Hospital, and affiliated units such as the Move- ment Disorder Clinic and PRIME. At the Operational Stress Injuries Clinic, an OT works with military and law enforcement personnel and veterans dealing with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. OTs also serve Deer Lodge’s Community Stroke Care Services and Priority Home Services. Te latter bridges the gap for clients on the wait-list for programs such as PRIME or a personal care home. “You could have six OTs all sitting in a room together

and their jobs could be all completely different,” says Warkentin. No matter what their focus, however, all OTs share

a dedication to improving the lives of their clients through collaboration, innovation and creative problem-solving. For example, OTs at Deer Lodge collaborate with the pharmacy team to develop tools called med-kits, which are used to measure a client’s ability to follow dosing instructions and schedules,

as well as their physical ability to open blister packs. Te connection between maintaining fine motor skills and cognition is also the foundation of the Montessori program used with residents of Deer Lodge Centre. “Having the patience to focus on tasks such as sort- ing objects or photos, for example, can help manage some of the more troubling behaviours associated with dementia, such as the urge to flee or wander off, or becoming anxious and agitated.” Deer Lodge’s OTs also connect clients with follow-

up care when they’re ready to leave the hospital. Aging in place: Safe Living Manitoba

When it comes to OT services for the general public,

there are plenty of options available in the community. OT services can help you (or a family member) regain function after a medical event such as a stroke, so that you can continue to live a full life. Tey can also provide valuable information and support for aging workers who wish to remain in the workforce, but need accommodations to their environment or their tasks in order to do so. Private occupational therapy services are also

available. One example is Safe Living Manitoba, a program developed by Enabling Access Inc. owner and occupational therapist Marnie Courage. Safe Liv- ing Manitoba OTs help identify equipment, services, or home modifications necessary for a client to age in place or live independently with a disability. Tey also help homeowners make their home accessible and “visitable” to all members of their family and community. Tey can team up with other community services providers such as contractors, equipment vendors, and private and public home care to help residents implement those services. By reducing risks, the program increases independ-

ence for clients and helps them live in their home and their community longer. Te approach it takes is resolutely proactive. “Why wait for people to fall before we look at their environment, or assess their cognitive abilities?” OTs are an especially good fit for this role because

they’re skilled at with working with people with dis- abilities, says Courage. “We understand the course of disease, and we are able offer predictive input into what somebody might need in the future.”

Winter 2018

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