October is National Occupational Therapy Month in Canada. This is an opportunity to celebrate how occupational therapists make a difference in the lives of those around us. While supporting and strengthening their clients’ capabilities, OTs help foster independence and their client’s ability to do the things that are important to them. Whether an individual is struggling to manage tasks at home, ease back into the workplace, or get connected with resources in their community, OTs can provide meaningful care to ensure success.
Here are two examples of how our occupational therapists have helped client’s recovery from injuries and reconnect with the people and activities they enjoy.
After a terrible bike accident, Robert could not work and underwent an unsuccessful surgery that subsequently required him to have a hip replacement. As an active 30 year old man who enjoyed his physically challenging job, he felt he was missing out on the best years of his life. When Susan, an occupational therapist with OT Works!, first connected with Robert following a referral from ICBC, he challenged the need for her OT services.
Susan took small steps to help Robert. Being client-centered, she carefully planned and arranged their first meeting. She knew to be successful, they needed to focus on what he could do, and build one step at a time. Susan had to meet Robert where they are at and use meaningful activity to help resume important activities. She accompanied him to the pool so that he could start swimming again. They began to go on walks, and over time Robert could walk more often and for a longer duration. Susan also helped Robert in his home, and in the process he rediscovered his love for cooking. Susan also connected him with a physiotherapist and kinesiologist who helped make sure that he did not overexert his hip.
By the end of their treatment, Robert returned to work as a longshoreman. With Susan’s help, he was able to work full-time, fulfilling all the duties his job requires while also pursuing leisure activities important to him. Not only is Robert rebuilding his endurance again but his employer was confident that he could work independently and efficiently. Susan’s intervention adopted a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporated meaningful activities, and carefully to graded plans to ease Robert back into the work and hobbies they enjoyed before the injury.
After suffering a fall at home, Isabella became very fearful of getting hurt again. She could not tolerate much walking and was usually too anxious to leave her apartment. Her lawyer asked for an occupational therapist’s help. When Isabella spoke with Janet, an occupational therapist with OT Works!, she told her that “I am not the fun, happy person I used to be.”
Janet was determined to help rebuild Isabella’s confidence. They set goals and accessed resources about depression and exposure therapy. Together they determined which strategies could best calm her racing heart rate, shaky hands, and negative thought processes. Isabella used these strategies to gradually re-engage with activities in the community. Janet set her up with a walker and a rehab assistant and together they would all walk to the mall; the therapists’ presence relieved anxiety about falling again. Over the 5 months that they worked together, Isabella was eventually able to walk ahead of Janet by a few steps, then by a block, and eventually they were able to meet at the mall rather than walk there together.
As her treatment with Janet came to an end, Isabella would visit the mall by herself and returned to activities she previously enjoyed such as quilting and preparing meals. Several months after her discharge, Janet received a surprise text. Isabella eagerly mentioned that she now walks in her community every day with her daughter or granddaughter and how grateful she is for her occupational therapist helped her accomplish.
By returning Isabella to her pre-injury activities in a relatively short period of time, her lawyer and insurance provider recognized that occupational therapy helped to saves disability costs and prevent future medical concerns from arising. Janet’s intervention is representative of occupational therapy’s approach to breaking down and managing a variety of barriers – whether they are physical, emotional or cognitive – to effectively empower a client one step at a time.
Ask for OT!
As with Robert and Isabella, OT’s can enliven peoples’ experiences in the home, workplace and community, no matter their reason for seeking treatment. The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists is also promoting the “Ask For OT” campaign as part of OT Month this October. ‘Ask for OT’ coverage, as a part of; from your employer, your insurance provider and/or your union. If you’d like to see OT services provided by your own workplace health benefits, send a letter to your employer, benefit provider or union. Or better yet, make a phone call or meet with your employer, insurance provider or union. CAOT has some great ideas to start the conversation.
Ask for OT from your Employer: https://www.caot.ca/document/6353/AskforOT_Letter%20for%20Employer.pdf
Ask for OT from your Insurer https://www.caot.ca/document/6354/AskforOT_Letter%20for%20Insurance%20Company.pdf
Ask for OT from your Union https://www.caot.ca/document/6355/AskforOT_Letter%20for%20union.pdf
OT Works! therapists and families joined the 2018 Run for Water in support of clean water projects in Gora Bantu, Ethopia. We had runners in 10k and 5k events having fun and donating to help address the water crisis in Africa.
As OTs we see how physical activity is so important to health and wellbeing. We also appreciate we are fortunate to live and work in Vancouver, were we are blessed with an abundance of fresh, clean water. Sometimes we complain about the rain, but we love it and are grateful for it. These are the reasons we support Run for Water and what this Abbotsford-based, non-profit organization is about:
We believe that running is awesome, inspiring, and often life-changing.
We believe that everyone on this planet should have access to clean water.
All fundraising proceeds go directly to water projects in Africa. And the difference it can make is life-changing. Just $35 provides 1 person in Gora Bantu with access to safe, clean drinking water for life. This year over $450,000 funds were raised.
Previous Run for Water campaigns supported the community of Sasiga, Ethiopia.
Learn more and donate at Runforwater.ca.
Mental health, like physical health, is something we all have.
Many of us know the statistic that 1 in 5 Canadians has a mental health issue every year. But that’s not the whole story. Every one of us, all 5 in 5, have mental health. Whether or not you have a mental health “issue.” The fact is that someone could be diagnosed with a mental illness and have great mental health, while someone without a mental illness may be struggling with theirs. Anybody can have poor mental health, and anybody can have great mental health. Mental health is a state of being. Your self-esteem, your level of stress, even your distress. How you feel about yourself and other people. These are all part of your mental health. And mental health is key to your overall health. We all have mental health and we should all be talking about it!
At a recent OT Works! social event that’s exactly what we did. Conversation drifted from post-work catching up to topics that were more personal and meaningful. Several of us took time to talk about how we are doing and evaluate our own mental health. Opening up on how we manage, several of our OT colleagues shared strategies they have implemented to support their well-being.
How do we keep the good days coming, and lift ourselves up on the bad days? Through our conversation, we recognized that our regular OT Works! social events help us to connect, take notice, learn from and give to each other. Our personal reflections line up with scientific findings which tell us that there are real, tangible action you can take to keep the good times coming and help on the bad days.. Here are some strategies for mental well-being, based on compelling evidence. As OTs with experience working with mental health challenges we know that these strategies help our clients, just as we know these work for us.
Feelings of connection are key to feeling well. So are healthy relationships, at home, work, school or in your community. Put time and energy into developing good relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Your mental health is stronger when you feel like you belong.
- Take someone for tea or coffee.
- Join something: a club, a group, an association.
- Hang out with a friend.
- Send a card or email to someone you miss.
- Enjoy the company of friends or family.
- Accept social invitations.
- Let grudges go.
Being active and taking care of your body will help you take care of your mental health. You’ve probably heard it before: Exercise will make you feel better. It will make you feel good. Well, it’s true. It can reduce stress, boost your energy and strengthen your immune system. Exercise doesn’t have to be work, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Maybe exercise is the wrong word for you. Depending on what makes you feel good, and on your level of mobility, try these:
- Throw (whether it’s a frisbee, a ball or even a javelin).
- Dance (like no one’s looking).
- Take the stairs.
Our lives are busy, so we sometimes need reminding to take notice. These days, we’re hearing more and more about mindfulness. What is it? Here’s one definition: It is the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present. In other words, it means paying attention to what is happening right now. Sometimes we forget to be mindful. When you notice what’s going on inside you, and what’s going on around you, you can make choices that will meet your needs. And you can reduce stress. Notice the moment, whatever you’re doing. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
- Take time to really enjoy your food.
- Pay attention to your breath, in meditation practice or just sitting at your desk.
- Notice when something good happens to you, and savour it.
- Observe when something’s beautiful. Or unusual.
- Be aware of your thoughts and what you tell yourself.
- Be curious.
- Try meditation. It’s not as hard as it might sound. (You can meditate in all sorts of way, including sitting, walking, and even eating. Check it out online.)
- Keep a journal or write a blog
- Check out your local arts and culture scene
KEEP ON LEARNING
Whether you’re in a classroom, or at the university of life, learning new things can foster your
self-confidence, and give you a sense of well-being. We don’t just learn as children, or in school.
We can learn new things all life long. And through learning, we can change the way we think
about ourselves and the world. The opportunities to learn are endless, whether it’s formal
learning, or not.
- Try something you’ve never tried.
- Or go back to something that you liked before.
- Sign up for that course: learn sign language or CPR or how to decorate cakes.
- Learn to play an instrument.
- Experiment with cooking and make your favourite food.
- Try a hobby or activity you’ve always meant to.
- Give yourself a challenge you’ll enjoy.
- Check out how to do just about anything on YouTube.
Give to others
Seeing yourself, and your well-being as linked to your community can be incredibly rewarding, and can give your brain a boost.
- Do something nice for a friend, or for a stranger.
- Thank someone.
- Smile. Check it out: it’s contagious.
- Volunteer at something that’s meaningful to you.
- Join a community group.
Give to yourself
This is sometimes called “self-care.” Set aside time for yourself and to do the things that make you feel well.
- Cook a tasty meal.
- At work: Take breaks. Go for a walk at lunch. Don’t eat at your desk. Take your sick days when you need them.
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Go out in nature. Or just get outside.
- Join a peer support group.
- Un-plug from email when you can.
- Take a break from social media.
- Laugh hard, and often.
- Do your laundry.
- Sing loud.
Location: Pitt Meadows somewhere on the Alouette River
“Spending time outdoors, appreciating the beautiful mountain views and getting a bit of exercise at the same time, this is my happy place. I have the opportunity to enjoy my favourite pastime, kayaking, because of the flexible work hours at OT Works!”
– Tammy Clark, (Office Manager)
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