- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Occupational therapists (OTs) help people of all ages to regain the ability to do everyday tasks.

For millions, the service is a lifeline.

In recognition of all the ways occupational therapy can help an individual, April has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month.

“It is a field that not a lot of people know about,” Luke Davis, occupational therapist and director of rehab services at Fairmont Rehabilitation Center, said.

“I think that is the biggest key - that it does so much good in the community, and I don’t even think most people know what it is, what it does or what it is good for.”

Davis added that it is a wide-open field.

“It brings independence back to people that have lost it for whatever reason?- injury, illness, stroke, (developmental delays) - it really increases the quality of life of patients within this community,” he said.

Occupational therapy is “outcome-oriented,” because therapists help clients work toward achievable goals, according to a Fairmont Rehabilitation Center press release.

Some of those goals include being able to bathe, get dressed, groom, do school work, eat, socialize, work, drive, shop and cook again.

Cortney Corder has been an occupational therapist for eight years at Fairmont Rehabilitation Center. She believes sometimes the word occupation throws people off.

“An occupation is a thing that you do in your daily life,” she said.

Davis said Fairmont Rehabilitation Center and Fairmont Regional Medical Center offer occupational therapy services in a variety of settings such as outpatient at Fairmont Rehabilitation Center, inpatient rehab at FRMC and in FRMC’s Home Health Department.

Outpatient focuses on upper-extremity injuries that prevent people from being independent.

“It is our job to get them independent again,” he added. “We do strengthening (and) we do activities - we have a board that just has buttons, snaps, zippers - we do a lot of treatments that just focus on getting the hand functioning again.”

The home health staff goes into people’s homes.

“They check blood pressures; they make sure that their medications are in order; the work on getting in and out of the bath tub; they work on making sure they can stand up in the kitchen to wash dishes,” Davis added.

For inpatient services, the hospital staff is in and out of the patients’ rooms helping them do the things they need to be able to go home.

Finally, there are OTs in the school system.

“You work on handwriting; you work on are they able to unbutton their pants when they go to the bathroom at school? They have to be able to carry their book bag,” Davis said.

Corder said she knew she wanted to be an occupational therapist at a young age.

“When I was in middle school, my mom worked at a nursing home and I would go and volunteer,” she said.

“There was a lady who had deformed hands that the OT at that facility was making an adaptive utensil for her to be able to feed herself, and ever since then I thought that was so neat that she was developing something new just specifically for that person so they didn’t have to be fed by someone else.”

In the outpatient setting, Corder said there is not one standard person that she sees every day.

“Just in the last hour I saw a 4-year-old, and now I have a 70-some-year-old,” she said. “Every person is completely different. It is just nice because in this setting you get to see those improvements. You get to see somebody getting back to being independent.”

Meagan Seremetis works at FRMC as an acute occupational therapist.

“We work with your medically complex patients,” she said. “We focus mostly with occupational therapy on activities of daily living.”

Seremetis says she enjoys working at the hospital.

“We work in a small community hospital, so it is nice that I know most of these patients, can work with them, get to know them and help them to rehab so they can get back home,” she said.

Occupational therapy began in 1910.

“The emergence of OT challenged mainstream scientific medicine,” the press release said. “World War I forced the new profession to clarify their roles due to the overwhelming number of war-time injuries. OT has continued to evolve over the years, yet the focus has always remained on improving the functional outcome of patients and increasing their quality of life.”

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Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com


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