After an injury or illness, the patient may have limited ability because of injury to their body or mind. Physical therapy can help return physical function but what if the individual has difficulty doing their everyday activities? This is where occupational therapy can come in. Occupational therapy helps people engage in daily life through therapeutic treatment with daily activities.
What is Occupational Therapy?
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy helps people across the lifespan do things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities, or “occupations.” Occupation therapy interventions include helping people with disabilities, illness, or injuries to develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills needed for daily living.
Occupational therapy (OT) may begin with an individualized evaluation. The occupational therapist will evaluate the patient's physical and mental abilities and limitations and help determine the patient's goals through treatment. The occupational therapist can then develop a personalized plan to help the patient through performing everyday activities. The therapist and patient can modify the plan over time as needed.
Occupations in this context does not refer to jobs. An occupation is any type of meaningful activity which can occupy a person's time. Occupations which OT may be used for therapy include:
- Activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)
- Rest and sleep
- Social participation
Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals that treat patients who have injuries, disabilities, or illnesses through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Occupational therapists usually work in hospitals, clinics, or occupational therapy offices. Many times, these therapists spend their time in the field working directly with patients at home, in the workplace, or out doing everyday activities.
Occupational therapists often work closely with others in the allied health profession, including physical therapists, speech therapists, audiology, nursing, social workers, adaptive technology, and mental health workers.
Occupational therapists are state-licensed and usually require a master's degree in their field. This includes educational requirements, practical skills, and passing an exam. Occupational therapy assistants or OT aides generally work with an occupational therapist or under supervision of a therapist but have a limited scope of practice.
When Do I Need Occupational Therapy After an Injury?
Who needs occupational therapy after an injury? Anyone who can benefit from assistance with getting back to daily life or continuing to maintain daily activities could benefit from OT. One of the problems with getting OT is that even if the patient could benefit from therapy, their doctor, employer, or insurance company may not approve OT. It may be up to the patient to get the care they need and be an advocate for their own health.
Generally, if any physical injury, illness, disability, or other condition impairs or limits your ability to participate in daily life, occupational therapy may be able to help. This could include temporary injuries, permanent injuries, or injuries that may worsen over time.
Occupational Therapy After an Injury Accident
Many personal injury accidents may be treated with OT. This includes temporary injuries where OT can help the patient maintain their abilities or treatment can help the patient during recovery. Common injury accidents that may require OT include:
- Car accidents
- Sports accidents
- Bike accidents
- Slip and fall
- Workplace injuries
- Horseback riding injuries
- Burn injuries
- Dog bite injuries
Occupational Therapy and Car Accidents
Car accidents are one of the most common causes of injury and death in Pennsylvania. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits happen every year from vehicle accidents. Injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises, to serious injury, to death. Whenever a car accident injury limits the victim's physical or mental condition, OT may be able to help.
Some of the most serious injuries after a car accident can include brain damage, spinal cord damage, loss of a limb, or loss of sight. Brain damage may limit the individual's mental and physical abilities. Spinal cord damage can cause paralysis. Amputation or loss of a limb can require a wheelchair or prosthesis for the individual to be able to get around. Loss of sight can also mean a major shift in how someone does the normal day-to-day activities they enjoyed before the accident.
Occupational Therapy and Medical Malpractice Injuries
Occupational therapy may also be necessary after a medical malpractice injury. Medical malpractice could be caused by any breach of the standard of care by a doctor that causes injury or harm to a patient. Medical errors can cause all types of temporary or permanent injury to patients, including:
- Nerve damage
- Loss of a limb
- Spinal cord damage
- Brain damage
For example, during wisdom tooth extraction, an able-bodied patient goes under anesthesia. The anesthesiologist makes a mistake and gives the patient too much anesthesia. The patient suffers a lack of oxygen to the brain causing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause permanent brain damage.
After recovery, the patient has difficulty remembering things, difficulty communicating, walks unsteadily, and suffers seizures. Physical therapy and OT may be able to help the patient recover some of their daily functions and help the patient adapt to doing things with their new disabilities.
Occupational Therapy and Children with Birth Injuries
Occupational therapy is also common for children with birth injuries. Birth injuries can cause developmental delays, physical disability, or mental disability. An occupational therapist can help treat the child through engagement in everyday activities.
At a younger age, OT can help the children through developing playtime skills, help them engage in education, and help develop communication with others. As the child gets older, OT can help with activities of daily living and finding a job.
Help After an Injury Accident or Medical Error
An injury victim may need many types of treatment when recovering from an injury. Treatment can be expensive and the person responsible for the injury should have to pay the price for what they did. A lawsuit can help the injury victim recover damages, including medical care, occupational therapy, and pain and suffering.
If you were injured because of an accident or medical mistake, talk to an experienced trial attorney about your options for recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.