When you're healthy, it’s easy to take for granted the little things you do every day, like simply getting out of bed, taking care of our daily needs and getting dressed. However, many people recovering from a serious injury or illness – such as after suffering brain damage from a stroke – are faced with having to re-learn all the activities they might normally do in their daily life.

image of a senior man learning to use his walker with his occupational therapist

The loss of mobility and fine motor skills often accompanies serious illness and traumatic injury.

In situations like these, occupational therapy is an essential part of recovery. Occupational therapists focus on helping people move toward regaining their independence, starting from what their current abilities are and what phase of recovery they are in.  

An occupational therapist might help you with:

  • Detailing the healing process and what you should expect
  • Improving how you complete daily activities such as self-care, child or pet care, driving, meal preparation or taking medication
  • Teaching you the best ways to get in and out of bed or lay down
  • Adapting your personal hygiene routine, including: bathing, toileting, dressing and eating
  • Outlining ways to prevent and avoid injuries

    Many people confuse occupational therapy with physical therapy, but the differences are significant. Occupational therapy focuses on helping a person adapt their daily routine so they can perform life skills as easily as possible, rather than directly treating a specific injury. Physical therapy focuses on an injury or person’s ability to perform movement in general.

    You can expect different things from occupational therapy based on where you receive it. For example:

  • In an inpatient setting, such as a long-term acute care hospital or inpatient rehabilitation hospital, the therapist will focus on helping you make gradual improvement toward your recovery goal after a serious injury or illness. They work closely with physical and speech therapy teams to support the overall plan.
  • In a home care setting, an occupational therapist helps you transition back into your daily life, such as improving your ability to get around the house, teaching you how to use assistive devices, meal preparation and clean up, assessing any risk areas of your home that might cause a fall or re-injury or administering medication.

There are also differences in what each occupational therapist could provide in each setting. Some therapists may have additional training so they can provide focused therapies, such as adapting to life after amputation or overcoming permanent brain damage after an event like a stroke.

At Kindred, we offer occupational therapy in our long-term acute care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. The goal of our therapists is to help you make long-lasting and positive lifestyle changes.  Not only do occupational therapists provide the care and therapy needed for recovery, they are also endowed with compassion and the ability to encourage their patients to continue on their journey to recovery, no matter how long or difficult it may be.

If you have questions about occupational therapy or making healthcare decisions, call us at 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or search for services in your area.

By Mel Bearns