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What is Occupational Therapy?

The word “Occupation” can be confusing. Occupations are any activities that “occupy” your time. That could be anything! The three main types of occupations that people engage in are self-care, work, and leisure activities. After a serious injury or illness, returning to your daily routine can be difficult. This can include activities such as getting in and out of bed, having a shower, cooking a meal, grocery shopping, playing games, and working. Occupational Therapists (OTs) are the right health care professionals to help you get back to all of these activities and more.

How can an Occupational Therapist Help Me?

Concussion Symptom Management

Concussions, as well as other injuries and illnesses, can result in a variety of physical symptoms such as pain, headaches, sleep disturbances, and noise sensitivity. An OT can provide:

  • Education on symptom thresholds and how to increase activity tolerance. 
  • Instruction on proper body mechanics, ergonomic set ups, positioning pillows, and adaptive aids to reduce strain on injured areas.
  • Coaching on pacing and the importance of body breaks to encourage progress.
  • Developing good sleep habits and routines.
  • Information on the use of earplugs, hats and sunglasses.
  • Education on new technology, apps, and how to make Smart Devices more accessible and tolerable.
  • Referrals to other specialists such as Neuro Optometrists or Physiotherapists as needed.

Cognitive Assessment and Rehabilitation

Cognitive symptoms can include decreased concentration, difficulties multitasking, memory problems, and mental fatigue. OTs can provide:

  • Education on pacing, cognitive load and energy conservation. 
  • Strategies and tools such as memory aids, planners and lists for organization. 
  • Coaching on how to plan and prioritize.
  • Assistance with modifying environments to optimize attention.
  • Providing cognitive exercises to increase attention, memory and activity tolerance.

Managing at Home

Living at home safely and independently while recovering from an illness or injury can be challenging. When activities such as dressing, bathing, meal preparation, cleaning, laundry, or grocery shopping are difficult to manage, an OT can provide:

  • Recommendations for strategies, assistive devices or modifications to the home.
  • Problem solving on how to modify activities and responsibilities.
  • Education on pacing, planning, prioritizing and developing routines.
  • Memory strategies.
  • Education on falls prevention.
  • Connecting you with community support and services.

Return to Work and School

Injuries and illnesses can result in time away from work or school in order to heal. An OT can help prepare for your return by:

  • Providing guidance and support with graduated return to work or school.
  • Collaborating with employers and school staff to ensure a successful return.
  • Modifying schedules or duties.
  • Increasing activity tolerance using exercises and strategies.
  • Addressing executive function skills, such as time management, planning, and organization by providing and practicing strategies

Mental Health

Emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depressed mood, irritability or decreased frustration tolerance may occur after a concussion or other serious injury or illness. OTs believe that participation in daily activities (‘occupations’) is important to mental health and well-being. To address these concerns, they can provide:

  • Instruction on stress management and relaxation techniques.
  • Strategies in dealing with anxiety and worry thoughts.
  • Strategies regarding frustration management.
  • Education on cognitive distortions and positive self-talk.
  • Exploration of interests and leisure activities.
  • Collaboration with Psychologists/Psychotherapists to manage symptoms.
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