Medical Minute: Rediscovering Independence with Occupational Therapy
May 8, 2023
Paul Welch, MD, is the Adventist Health Tillamook Ambulatory Medical Director. As a board-certified medical provider with decades of experience in both care and leadership, he provides strategies for all clinical practice settings to provide the best experience and outcomes for all patients in the communities that Adventist Health Tillamook serves.
People with new or existing disabilities, chronic conditions or acute health conditions that restrict their independence may not be aware that treatment options are available in a field of medicine called occupational therapy. This healthcare profession helps people across all ages participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities that we refer to as occupations.
For this month’s editorial I’m highlighting this therapy and what a great improvement it can provide to quality of life, regaining independence and full potential by introducing Brandan Lym, director of Rehabilitation Services at Adventist Health Tillamook, who manages a team of 16 rehabilitation therapists that specialize in physical therapy and speech therapy as well as occupational therapy.
Brandan, tell us more about occupational therapy and what our community may not know about what a difference it can make to people with disabilities.
Thanks Dr. Welch, occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on the whole person, not just their symptoms. OT practitioners work with individuals and their families to identify their goals, develop a treatment plan and provide support and education.
Here are some quick highlights about the impact OT can make to someone with a disability:
- Occupational therapy can help people regain independence. A study of people with stroke found that those who received occupational therapy were more likely to be independent in their activities of daily living (ADLs) at six months than those who did not receive occupational therapy.
- Occupational therapy can improve quality of life. A study of people with arthritis found that those who received occupational therapy had a significant improvement in their quality of life, including their physical function, social participation and emotional well-being.
- Occupational therapy can help people return to work. A study of people with spinal cord injury found that those who received occupational therapy were more likely to return to work than those who did not receive occupational therapy.
- Occupational therapy can help children with developmental delays. A study of children with autism spectrum disorder found that those who received occupational therapy had a significant improvement in their social skills, communication skills and daily living skills.
- A Johns Hopkins study showed that in patients with heart failure, pneumonia and acute myocardial infarction, OT was the only significant factor that lowered readmission rates and kept them out of the hospital. Researchers noted that this could be due to the unique and immediate emphasis OT places on the patient’s function and social support.
Thanks Brandan, occupational therapy clearly has many uses for a wide range of disabilities and clearly has a long-established track record for making a significant impact to quality of life, independence and emotional well-being. The work you and your team do, as well as all occupational therapists, is making an impact.
If you or a loved one with a disability or recent debilitating injury, finding an occupational therapist near you and establishing care can provide long- term results.
In good health,
Dr. Paul Welch