By Brittany Edwards, OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist in Roanoke, Virginia
The role of Occupational Therapists in addressing self-care needs and activities
Occupational therapy can make a dramatic impact on quality of life with a plan of care focused on helping individuals develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. Therapists first determine if an individual’s independence is impacted by deficits in strength, range of motion, coordination, or cognition then address the underlying areas of need in order to improve independence. Occupational Therapists are trained in helping people perform daily activities to the best of their abilities. One thing most people do every day is get dressed! For some, dressing may be a challenge. A person who has had a Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), the medical term for a stroke, may not be able to control one side of the body like they are accustomed to. Or a person with a diagnosis such as cerebral palsy may have spasticity in the muscles that limits range of motion. Children with developmental delays may have poor body awareness and may have difficulty coordinating their bodies to orient the clothing and put it on.
Getting dressed. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, it’s not as simple as some may think for certain patient populations. Most of us take what is perceived as a fairly straightforward activity (i.e. getting dressed) for granted but there are many that need assistance performing even the most basic of functions. The goal of occupational therapy is to address areas of need by leading a person in performing functional activities that will help develop the skills that are missing for dressing in addition to practicing dressing itself!
Occupational therapists are specialists at providing individualized treatment to rehabilitate a lost skill, or compensate for a skill that cannot be completed in a standard manner. For example, stringing beads or lacing cards can help develop a stronger pinch and the visual-motor skills necessary to manipulate buttons and zippers. Reaching for items placed high or low and transitioning in then out of a standing or seated position can help develop the core strength and motor coordination required to get dressed.
Creating these obstacles and figuring out how to maneuver the body to overcome them can help develop one’s awareness of their body in space, thus breaking down barriers that limit their ability.
Equipment for adapting to self-care needs and activities
OTs can also teach techniques for dressing that use different kinds of adaptive equipment. Adaptive equipment is helpful when improvements in strength or range of motion are limited. Long-handled grabbers or dressing sticks can help an individual drop pants down to the feet and help pull pants back up without needing to bend down or lift the legs.
Button hooks can help manipulate small buttons through a hole when the fingers lack dexterity or strength to do so. Different kinds of adaptive shoelaces can help secure shoes on feet without needing to tie the laces. Occupational therapists also train in adaptive methods of dressing when adaptive equipment is not warranted.
Dressing is just one of the many activities addressed by occupational therapists. Our goal is to improve each individual’s participation in everyday life by providing collaborative, meaningful, and evidence-based solutions.
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OT photo contests, art and crafts and activities of daily living … oh my!
Check back later this week for more fun photo contests, Springtime art projects, and educational information about the role of occupational therapists for patients looking to enhance their independence with activities of daily living! OT Month is upon us and we implore EVERYONE to continue to show our OTs love all month long using #OTMonthCORA in your social media posts.
If you want to learn more or are ready to enlist the help of a skilled occupational therapist, please visit one of our 210+ locations throughout Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois and Missouri. You can schedule an appointment at the clinic nearest you or use our virtual telehealth appointment form to speak with a licensed occupational therapist by phone, computer or any device with a camera.