What’s Occupational Therapy For?
You might have heard about Occupational Therapy, but it’s not a widely understood field – and this is a shame! The myths and obscurity surrounding the discipline mean people who could be carving out satisfying and vital careers in Occupational Therapy jobs don’t consider it, and people in need of the help Occupational Therapists can bring, don’t know to ask for it.
Today we’re putting Occupational Therapy under the spotlight, asking what it’s for, who does it and why it’s so important right now.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapy sounds like it’s about giving someone a distraction, to keep them occupied. This is a myth (or at least a misunderstanding – the therapeutic benefits of distraction are strictly limited!). Occupational Therapy is about helping people with conditions that limit the scope of actions they can perform, be they due to illness and injury, disability or simply the aging process, find ways to continue to accomplish the tasks most important to them.
An Occupational Therapist doesn’t just try and get injured people back to work as soon as possible – the important thing is not productivity but quality of life! For some people the two things might be synonymous: finding a way to get back to work after an injury that limits their mobility helps to restore their quality of life. In this case an Occupational Therapist might help to adapt their vehicle, explore other ways to get about physically, from car-pooling to taxi services or even help someone set up an accessible office in their own home.
Other people might have more personal concerns – they might really value the ability to cook a meal for their partner, but find it gets less and less possible as they age. An Occupational Therapist could help to source more easy to handle kitchen equipment and -prepared ingredients, and suggest exercises to build and maintain stamina and strength.
Why Is Occupational Therapy Important Now?
Most western countries have what’s known as an aging population: declining birth rates and extended life spans mean that the population is, over time, tending toward the elderly, with a greater and greater proportion of people over the age of retirement and, increasingly, in need of care.
Occupational Therapists have a vital role to play in making sure this aging population maintains it’s independence for as long as possible. This isn’t just healthy for the individual people concerned (and is it vital for them!), greater independence and long term health can ease the burden on an already straining care infrastructure, and help to ensure better quality care for everyone.