The benefits of occupational therapy

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From careers advice to home aids, an Occupational Therapist can help you feel more confident in so many ways

Occupational therapists are incredibly useful people. They can help you get on with your work, hobbies and household tasks independently, which may scupper your excuses to get out of the washing up!

You can be referred to a specialist OT by your consultant rheumatologist, or by your GP, or you can approach social services yourself, or find an OT in private practice.

If you’re going to see an OT for the first time, think about any problems your arthritis causes with everyday tasks – because this is what they will want to know. This might include any issues with washing, dressing, cooking, driving, getting around, work, and hobbies.

When the OT knows what your particular problems are, they will come up with some possible solutions.

They can look at things like how you position yourself when you’re sitting or standing, rest breaks, home adaptations, splints, specialist equipment and vehicle adaptations.

They can teach you ways to reduce the strain on your joints, and ways to manage any fatigue problems you may have.

If you’re having difficulties in the workplace, the OT can liaise with your employer, your Disability Employment Adviser, or your Access to Work officer. If your company has an occupational health department, the OT can also help you communicate with them.

Here’s what occupational therapists can help with*:

  • Support to find and begin work
  • Career counselling and advice
  • Worksite assessments
  • Ergonomics (looking at your working conditions)
  • Task analysis (looking at what you’re being asked to do)
  • Vocational assessments
  • Functional Capacity Evaluations (tests and observations to see what you are capable of)
  • Condition management
  • Work rehabilitation and work hardening/conditioning
  • The use and development of work skills
  • Job analysis and job modification/adjustment
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995 compliance advice to employers
  • Litigation, health and safety, occupational health and other relevant areas
  • Injury prevention
  • Access issues

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Rachel Wilson is an independent occupational therapist in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Rachel says: “Occupational therapists assess individuals’ physical, psychological, and social needs as a result of their condition, looking at the whole picture, and considering the impact on their lifestyle.

“Someone with arthritis may find their role at work, or even considering the prospect of finding work, increasingly challenging as a result of several factors. Not only will they potentially experience physical and psychological symptoms, but there may be environmental and role barriers that affect their ability to complete their job to the best of their ability.

“An occupational therapist will not only assess the specific needs of the individual, but will complete an assessment of the work space and general work environment, the role the individual does and is contractually required to do, and the policies and procedures that impact on the individual’s requirements.”

Rachel says part of an OT’s work is to give people with arthritis help with energy conservation and protecting their joints during their working day – and also in other areas of their life.

“They may provide advice and intervention with regards to relaxation and pain management techniques alongside other healthcare professionals such as doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, and psychologists,” she says.

“They may also advise on, or even fabricate, suitable splints for optimal joint positioning and pain management at work. Equipment, improved positioning, altered routines, and practicable adaptations to the working environment and the working role may be recommended.

“It is essential that the whole picture is considered, as individuals with arthritis need to ensure they can cope with the tasks demanded from their home life before and after work, as well as maintaining safe functional ability within their given role at work.” RachelWilsonOccupationalTherapy.co.uk

*(Source: College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section – Work (2009) 2nd ed. Occupational Therapy in Vocational Rehabilitation: A brief guide to current practice in the UK www.cot.co.uk)

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