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How occupational therapy empowers people to live a better life

Buttoning up a shirt, making breakfast and unlocking the door to head out for the day are all activities that are taken for granted. However, seemingly simple daily life activities can become challenging after surgery or illness. When daily living difficulties arise, an occupational therapist can step in to help regain or relearn those activities. April is occupational therapy month, a time to recognize the importance of these professionals who help empower people to live a better life.

The difference between occupational and physical therapy

A doctor will often recommend both physical and occupational therapy because each field covers different aspects. The primary difference is that a physical therapist works with patients to help reduce pain, increase range of motion, improve endurance and enhance fine motor skills. In contrast, an occupational therapist is more focused on the activities of daily lives, especially self care.

The role of an occupational therapist

Occupational therapists are licensed professionals who have to pass an exam to be certified. Some occupational therapists have specialized fields of treatment like working with children or older adults or specific areas of the body. During the first meeting with an occupational therapist, an assessment of skill levels will be completed to identify areas where treatment is needed. The occupational therapist will often consult with your doctor, physical therapist or other medical professionals to coordinate treatment.

Gripping objects and developing other fine motor skills is one focus of occupational therapy. Image used licensed by Shutterstock

Areas to be addressed

Not everyone will need therapy in all of these different areas but these are often the points of focus during occupational therapy:

  • Work on fine motor skill development to allow patients to perform intricate tasks like writing with a pen or cutting food with a knife. These activities use the small muscles in the wrist and hands. If fine motor skills have been affected, simple tasks like feeding yourself can become difficult.
  • Coordination between hands and eyes is another area that can be addressed during occupational therapy. The ability to have the eyes and hands work together is essential for picking something up, tying a shoelace and many other daily activities.
  • Learning to use assistive devices can also be a part of occupational therapy. There are many tools like reaching tools, button hooks for buttoning and gripping handles for scissors which can make tasks easier. These devices can help overcome limitations experienced after illness or surgery.
  • Managing emotions can also be part of occupational therapy. Frustration can occur when there are new limitations in movement so learning how to be mindful of these emotions and how to manage them helps regain control in life.

Aim for success

Although it may seem progress is slow, it is important to continue to work with the occupational therapist. The best results occur when a teamwork approach is used. Sticking to a daily exercise routine and accepting new ways of doing things will help move you towards independence. Sometimes it will mean doing a task in a whole different way but once the new way is learned, progress will be made. Focus on goals and remain positive even when progress seems slow. Occupational therapy is an important part of the recovery because it helps the patient with self care and can reduce the chances of future injury.

Sometimes occupational therapy involves learning how to perform a task in a new way or using a new tool to assist. Image used licensed by Shutterstock.

Recovery that is effective

The goal of recovery after a medical event is always to return to normal life as soon as possible. To have true recovery success, it is best to take a holistic approach where physical, emotional and social needs are addressed. Working with an occupational therapist to address areas that have been affected during illness or surgery helps regain a feeling of control. An occupational therapist can also help avoid possible dangers like falls by showing a patient personal safety strategies, like how to safely navigate stairs or get out of a car without tripping. Glenview Terrace has earned a reputation for providing effective recovery journeys with physical and occupational therapist ready to offer services up to seven days a week. The compassionate staff is present around the clock to encourage and guide guests towards a wellness goal. In addition, these aggressive and comprehensive services are offered in attractive surroundings that give a pampered feel. Don’t hope for a quick recovery. Plan on a quick recovery by deciding to stay at Glenview Terrace.

Glenview Terrace, the focus is always to safely and quickly get you back to your active life after surgery, a hospital stay or a medical event. Focusing on healthcare excellence and safety, Glenview Terrace provides the latest infection-control precautions. Glenview Terrace has been ranked among the top 1% of all Illinois post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers by Newsweek — and has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval certification for post-hospital and post-surgical care. For additional information or to arrange a personalized virtual tour, visit or call 847-729-9090.

J. Buchenot for Glenview Terrace