Tracy Milius, OT
Last year occupational therapy celebrated 100 years, and in 2018 we look toward a new century of providing occupational therapy services. It’s remarkable to me how the profession has expanded. It can even seem overwhelming when exploring the broad spectrum of services and niche markets we serve.
Of course, we remain deeply entrenched in the delivery of services related to promoting independence throughout the life span. RehabVisions’ occupational therapists working in skilled nursing facilities and in rural practice focus on activities of daily living, home safety, and living safely and independently. But what else are we doing? Let’s explore the practice areas occupational therapists are delving into.
Low vision affects many aging adults. The various disorders that fall into the “low vision umbrella” cannot be corrected with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Low vision conditions are becoming an important part of everyday life for aging patients, and OTs are well positioned to help patients remain safe, independent and engaged in activities that are important to them. Treatment strategies include education, home adaptations, adaptive equipment, specialized lighting and customized electronic devices. All of these are instrumental in helping individuals with low vision.
Driving is an important life skill that has a significant impact on safety, especially the safety of others. Almost anyone can benefit from a driving assessment by an occupational therapist. A driving evaluation identifies specific changes necessary to improve driving safety. Occupational therapy programs often help those who have suffered a medical incident such as a stroke, or who have a chronic medical condition like multiple sclerosis, stay behind the wheel or even resume driving.
Progressive neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, significantly impact gross motor and fine motor movements and ADL function. While the effects of these diseases are not reversible, OT interventions through specialty certification programs like LSVT BIG can improve function and quality of life. Research shows a direct translation of the structured motor exercises emphasized in treatment into functional activities emphasized outside of the treatment. OT fits perfectly as the therapy discipline establishing life-long habits of structured home practice that continues beyond the one month of LSVT treatment.
It seems the possibilities for occupational therapy are endless. The core skills of occupational therapy practitioners will continue to impact the daily lives and function of endless patient diagnostic groups. Here’s to the next 100 years of occupational therapy!