How can an occupational therapist help after an auto collision?
When you are seriously injured in a collision you may need rehabilitation to regain function and independence. You may work with many health professionals. One of them is an occupational therapist.
What does an occupational therapist do?
An occupational therapist works in a variety of locations. They can be part of a multidisciplinary team, work at a hospital, rehabilitation center, or with you at your home. The therapist helps you retain or regain physical and cognitive function along with mobility both at home and at work.
A program is designed for you based on the nature and severity of your injury, the length of your recovery period and on your desires and goals. The idea is to return you to your “normal” life as fully as possible. If a complete recovery is not going to be possible, the occupational therapist will then work with you so that you can adapt to these changes and still live as independent a life as possible.
Occupational therapy has several areas of focus, including:
Hand and upper extremity therapy
Although occupational therapists focus on much more than just hand/upper extremity function for patients with broader disability, they also assist patients who have had injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. They work with surgeons and other healthcare professionals to establish the best course of rehabilitation and re-injury prevention.
Maintaining and restoring physical and cognitive abilities
If a patient’s injury means no permanent loss of function, the occupational therapists focus is to maintain and restore strength and current abilities as the patient heals. Exercise programs that improve strength and/or dexterity are done both with the therapist and independently.
The occupational therapist constructs activities and exercises for each patient so as to strengthen and restore abilities including but not limited to the following:
• Hand-eye coordination
• Dexterity and strength
• Daily living skills (dressing, eating, cooking)
• Problem solving
• Perceptual skills
• Whole body coordination
• Adapting to disability and regaining independence as much as possible
If a return to previous function is not possible for you, the occupational therapist can teach you alternate ways of doing so that you can return to as independent a life as possible. For example, if the injury has caused permanent disability, the occupational therapist may teach you how to use adaptive equipment like a wheelchair or crutches for mobility. They can also assist you with modifications to your home and workplace as applicable, such as installing ramps where needed.
Cognitive and emotional treatment with occupational therapy
Although occupational therapy focuses greatly on restoring patients’ physical abilities, cognitive function may also have been impaired because of your injury. It, too, must be addressed if you are to recover as much as possible. For example, head injuries may impair both cognitive and physical function. In that case, the therapist will develop a therapy program that addresses both. Computer-based programs and interactive exercises with the occupational therapist test and strengthen skills in areas like coordination, decision making, sequencing and problem solving. Life skills such as time management, shopping and budgeting may also need to be taught or reinforced.
The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace a physician’s advice. Please always consult your physician for your medical needs.