My Name is Tarnya and I work as an occupational therapist. When I tell someone I’m an occupational therapist they normally look at me with a blank expression or they call me a nurse or a carer. I’m not a nurse and I really am not a carer so here I will explain what I actually do. I worked as an assistant in a hospital for 4 years with elderly people assessing their needs before they went home. Whilst I was doing this job I also studied an occupational therapy degree I did a four year course. An Occupational therapist works with many different client groups from physical disabilities, mental health including eating problems, anxiety, schizophrenia etc.. Paediatrics (children). Occupational therapists can work in the hospital, community (which is what I do), prisons, social services, voluntary and schools.
An occupational therapist works with someone to promote health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful activities. I work with people to improve their function which may have decreased due to their illness. I try and get a person to be as independent as possible with their activities. I work in the community mainly with the elderly who have come out of hospital but cannot manage at home or to stop people going in to hospital by giving them support until they are feeling better. I assess a person and sometimes adapt their property ie putting rails up, giving them equipment such as a stool, a sponge on a long hand, a long handled brush, adapted cutlery, toilet equipment, bed and chair raisers etc.. This equipment can make someone happy as they then do not have to rely upon a carer to complete tasks for the individual. I also set up a program this could last a minimum of a day and a maximum of 6 weeks where I set up goals for a client so eventually they can wash and dress themselves independently or carry out making a meal, wash up, feed their dog or cat, complete their transfers on off bed, chair and toilet independently and I also help them find other services that can help with medication, shopping, cleaning etc..
In the programs I set up I make the individual do as much as possible for themselves and help with the parts they are finding difficult. I slowly take steps back so the person can complete the tasks themselves. If they can complete it within the 6 weeks then we pull out and let them carry on as independently as possible. If a client needs some extra care this is also assessed and their needs are met by social services.
I hope this gives people a bit more understanding in to what I do for a living and next time someone tells you their an occupational therapist you wont look at them with a blank expression.