There’s no doubt the role of occupational therapy in a skilled nursing facility has evolved and grown over the last several years. Whether you’re a short-term resident recovering from an illness or injury or a long-term resident with chronic disease, the right occupational therapy team and plan can have a significant impact on your progress and your overall quality of life.
Just keep in mind, the relationship with your therapist is not a one-way street. By actively engaging with your occupational therapy team, you’ll better realize your occupational therapy goals. Below are some recommendations to help ensure you get the greatest value from your occupational therapy activities:
1. Collaborate from Day One
Whether you are working toward regaining function or learning how to adjust your lifestyle, the experience with your occupational therapist (OT) is incredibly personal. While an OT should take the lead by asking questions to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and any barriers you may be facing, we encourage you to be proactive. Let your therapist know that you want to be included in the conversations and decisions surrounding your treatment, including goal setting, progress tracking, and the types of therapies you’ll be doing.
Pay attention to how your therapist interacts with you, especially during your first few sessions. Are they asking questions to fully understand how you live? Is your treatment designed to support the necessary skills you need to care for yourself and your hobbies? If you are recovering from an injury or illness and plan to return home, your therapist should consider what you need to do to return safely.
For example, if you have had a stroke or experienced another event that has limited your mobility, you may need to adjust your morning routine. This could include learning new ways to reach into cabinets for a toothbrush or a bath towel. You may even need a different solution for turning on the water in your sink or shower. Your occupational therapy activities should tie back to those activities. If you feel your treatment is not aligning with how you live, have a conversation with your therapist about why these treatments were chosen. It’s a good idea to make sure your OT is aware of how you were accustomed to living before injury or illness.
The right therapist will be interested in all areas of your life, from your environment to the transportation methods you use to where you choose to spend your free time. By working with your therapist so they can set the right occupational therapy goals, you will be on a clearer path toward healing.
2. Ask Questions
To make consistent progress toward your occupational therapy goals, you’ll need to ensure your sessions are as efficient as possible. While you might feel uncomfortable at first, it is important to ask questions so that you fully understand why you are doing the treatments outlined in your plan:
- Do these occupational therapy activities support how I want to live?
Your treatment should be aimed at helping you gain the ability and confidence to live a more functional, independent lifestyle. If you are a short-term stay patient, ask about what, if any, adaptive equipment you might need once you return home. For long-term stay residents, focus on what you need to live your best life. This could include more cognitive-focused activities or environmental adaptations that help you feel more comfortable and capable of caring for yourself.
- Do I really need cognitive therapy activities?
During your first session, your occupational therapist should discuss both, your physical and cognitive goals. While there may be a greater emphasis on movement-based therapy activities, your cognitive needs should be considered as they’re vital for your overall health and wellbeing.
- Is there a purpose in using heat, ice, or electrotherapy as part of my treatment?
Every component of your treatment should have a clear purpose. If your occupational therapist suggests using heat, cold or, electrotherapy, make sure they have a clear reason why. Find out if there is an objective beyond just pain relief.
- What sensory interventions are right for me?
Working collaboratively with your occupational therapist also creates an opportunity for them to fully understand your barriers. This can include challenges with everyday sensations such as noises, lights, textures, and tastes. If your therapist suggests something you know you’re sensitive to, let them know. If you feel they are using one-size-fits-all interventions, say something. Your success is largely due to the personalized planning of your treatment.
- Should overhead pulleys be part of my treatment plan?
If you need to focus on building strength primarily on one side of your body, particularly following a stroke, your therapist will recommend specific occupational therapy activities to build strength on that side. This is another opportunity to ask questions to fully understand why those activities are part of your plan. Overhead pulleys can be beneficial, but they can also lead to more problems such as shoulder injuries.
- How should my “progress” be defined and tracked?
As part of your goal setting, have an open conversation with your occupational therapist about measuring your progress. Creating milestones and even smaller “success points” can help keep you motivated and can help your therapist see what interventions are working well.
3. Continue to Manage Expectations
Like any other goal you have had throughout your life, those you set during the first session with your occupational therapist could change through the course of your rehabilitation or ongoing care. As mentioned above, tracking your progress and making notes of what seems to be working can enhance your experience over time. Having frequent “gut checks” with your therapist can go a long way toward evolving your occupational therapy activities to further build on your strengths while overcoming weaknesses.
Learn More about Occupational Therapy Activities
Ultimately, your work with an occupational therapist should be meaningful and focus on the necessary and wanted activities in your life. Getting the most value from each session lies in creating a true partnership between you and your therapist. At Rehab Select, we offer one-on-one occupational therapy services up to seven days a week, three hours a day. Unlike many facilities, we can offer this personalized, rigorous schedule of physical, occupational, and speech therapies, as ordered by a patient’s physician. You benefit from shorter stays and a faster route to wellness. Contact Rehab Select today to learn more about the types of treatment services we offer.