This month I decided to give the spotlight to people wanting to talk about their OT experiences, outside of their studies. The following texts do not necessarily coincide with what we have learned in our studies, they are related to experiences linked with loved ones or acquainted people receiving occupational therapy.
if you would like to know more about it you can always contact Jennie via email: JWEBST10@caledonian.ac.uk or via Twitter (@jwebot), Akylina via email: email@example.com, and Martyna via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Furthermore, feel free to contact me about your ideas on the content of our next blog as well as whether you would like to be one of our guest bloggers!
Till next time, stay safe and active,
Emmanouela Kanetaki | Blogger
Environmental adaptations as a part of the OT practice
After 56 whole years, my 85-year-old friend who lived in her top floor apartment, finally moved into sheltered housing, on the 1st floor. She did not have to walk up and down those stairs twice a day in order to do her chores outside of her home, which was very beneficial for her since she had been experiencing pain and fatigue and she really felt unsafe when using them. Moving to a 1st floor sheltered flat with an alarm call system meant that she was able to remain independent but with a safety net if she needed it. After she moved in, I helped her fill her balcony with flowers and foliage, just like we had in the garden at the old flat, enjoying the afternoon at the garden center picking out flowers and a plant.
The only problem was that she struggled to manage the step out onto the balcony where we’d put a small table and chair for her to enjoy a cup of tea and admire her “garden”. I asked her what would make it easier for her and she said “if the step wasn’t as big.” My brain whirred and I thought that there must be someone who could help, and I felt she could do with a few other things around the house as well, so I called the local council occupational therapy number and explained the situation. They couldn’t have been more helpful! They came and assessed my friend and her needs and what she wanted to be able to do and before we knew it she had a half-step at the balcony door, a grab rail in the shower and bed rail to help her to get out the bed more easily. She was delighted and I was inspired.
I wanted to be part of a team that could help a person feel so empowered and able to do what they wanted to do, so I applied to do the MSc in occupational therapy at Glasgow Caledonian University, and was due to start in January 2018.
Unfortunately, my friend died in 2017 and almost immediately I became seriously unwell and had to defer my place at university. I spent the next two years being my own occupational therapist and working out ways of enabling myself to do what I wanted to do and get fit enough to get to university to study. It was a long slog, and an ongoing one, but I’m working on it!
I’m almost finished the 1st year of the course and whilst it’s not been as I imagined (due to Covid-19) and I’ve yet to go on placement, I’m loving it and cannot wait to join a team like the one that made such a difference to my dear friend.
OT interventions for a child with West Syndrome
I first got to know about occupational therapy when my little sister was 5 and a half months. She appeared to have infantile spasms or else West Syndrome and got hospitalized where she started getting treatment. Only after she was 1-year-old she started receiving occupational therapy treatments where she was attending twice a week for the next 8 years. She was having motor, cognitive and psychomotor difficulties. During these sessions she did motor routes, used the sensory swing, climbed a special wall, used a trampoline and inflatables, painted, did puzzles, writing related exercises and school preparations.
Then I was amazed about all the things she took part in and thought it was more like playing and wanted to be a part of it as well. Even though I had not really realized what therapy is but I could see my sister improving and being able to face the difficulties that would come up. I especially noticed that when we tried to play together with our older brother and she did very well. I used to try to acknowledge her difficulties and help her out, with our parents’ guidance, and so we were playing most of the time with puzzles, dolls or we used to paint.
Now, as an OT student, I know that my sister’s OT handled her well and did a great job with her, corresponding each and every one of her needs with some sort of an intervention. Even though her needs were addressed I would love to see a more “top down” intervention, like helping and teaching her how to get dressed by engaging her in this occupation rather than practicing the skills needed.
Lack of OT and actions taken
I had never experienced any OT influence until I started my course. That’s when I realized that this profession can have a big impact on various aspects of my life, including my personal life. In my family and neighborhood, there are a handful of people facing health deficits, which, I think, is a very common phenomenon. Even though it is essential for us, OTs, to keep the balance between our work and personal life, there were still times when I was thinking like an OT watching these people facing difficulties I knew I could help with. Due to my studies, I gained a lot of knowledge to be able to support my relatives even with small changes, such as picking out suitable bathroom accessories or rearranging the furniture. Which, at first, made them suspicious since they were not used to me being so professional, but I guess for me it is a skill that I need to practice, for I am in my last year of studies.
Even though, as I said, we mustn’t mix our two “lives”, I am now more aware of people in need who surround me. I do appreciate it but sometimes I feel it is more responsible for us to build our own perspective on such matters and not see everyone around us as an “already-known case”. For example, it is easier to realize how one’s life has been altered due to a specific condition, but it is more ethically correct to not assume or take for granted anything. Everyone has their own way of being, doing and belonging but since my clinical practice, there are some similarities I spot on similar cases f.e. on two stroke patients or people with eating disorders, etc. Having an occupational view on “strangers” has not been that bad for me since I have gained their trust and they feel more understood and appreciated. Now, that I am exposed to “outside-world experiences” I can say that I have indeed observed some differences between my clinical practice and the situation mentioned above. There were sometimes when independence was more important than the person’s occupational identity, but thankfully now I can recognize how important the latter is and avoid such unfavorable options. Even though I acknowledge that people with limited abilities have more difficulties executing tasks and being independent, I will do whatever I can to help these people perform activities of their preference daily.