Our Work Is More Vital Than Ever; OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SPECIAL

Article excerpt

Byline: JULIA SCOTT

Occupational therapy has seen dramatic developments in recent years.

Here Julia Scott, spokesperson for the College of Occupational Therapists, explains how important the work is

DURING the 21 years that I have been in occupational therapy, I have seen the profession evolve considerably. It enjoys a much higher profile now than it did 10 years ago: today, an occupational therapist makes a valuable contribution to a patient's needs, along with the rest of the multidisciplinary team that is involved in health and social care.

Historically, occupational therapy was regarded by some as a diversionary activity; pigeon holed as being specifically for people who were recovering from a traumatic injury.

Over the years it has significantly developed: a central part of the service looks at how people manage in their home environment and perform daily tasks.

Technology has come a long way and it means the range of adaptive equipment that we can offer people to help them has grown enormously.

This has been particularly useful for occupational therapists based in the community, such as my team at Kensington and Chelsea.

For example, those with hearing impairment may benefit from a portable doorbell that allows them to hear someone at the front door wherever they are in the house.

There is technology available that can help people get in and out of bed or enable a wheelchair-user to reach in and out of a baby's cot.

Such equipment doesn't come cheap.

However, these developments mean that there are many more solutions to care problems than there used to be.

Another related growth area is rehabilitation using computer technology.

Patients may have difficulties making decisions after a stroke or an accident: now there is computer software available to help them.

The social services and health services are becoming increasingly integrated. People spend less time in hospitals so there has to be support in the community. Intermediate care is a growing area and occupational therapists, with their training in both health and social services, are ideally placed to help patients once they have returned home.

MUCH of our work involves finding practical solutions to everyday problems that a person with a disability may face.

These may be things that most of us wouldn't give a second thought to: personal hygiene, getting dressed and all kinds of daily-living activity.

One of our great skills is being able to solve problems, looking at the areas of difficulty a client may be having and finding the solution in a number of steps.

So, for example, rather than someone saying they cannot get dressed in the morning, we would help them work through the problem.

In addition, the client may be a carer or parent and they may need advice on specialist housing, how to get to work or request transport, as well as information and help in leisure pursuits, such as access to the library, cinema or swimming pool. …