What I do to pay the bills

I should be cooking dinner, but I’m going to get this up out of me.

I probably work in one of the most under recognized fields in health care. I am an occupational therapist (OT).

I’ve said it before, but I’m going to explain what it is NOT before I explain what it is and why you should care:

It’s not physical therapy.

If you are in the hospital, I am NOT going to help you find a job (sorry the name fooled you…)

It’s not your personal maid service. Just like every other therapy service in the hospital, my time is expensive. Don’t believe me? Wait until you see your bill.

I’m going to tell you what I do as an OT in a hospital setting. I help people learn what they need to do to take care of themselves after illness. If you don’t think that’s important, think about it this way: if you are in yours 20s-30s (or whatever age is its you might be, but particularly those), if you have to see me it means something pretty drastic happened to you. Maybe you got into a car accident and now have a spinal cord injury that is going to make you a paraplegic or a quadriplegic. Maybe you had a stroke (and it happens), and now half of your body isn’t working the way it should (or half your face is drooping). Maybe you got injured in some kind of sporting event.  Lots of ways you can meet me while you are in the hospital, but once you meet me, I ask a few simple questions:

Were you able to take care of yourself by yourself? Could you dress yourself, bath yourself, brush your teeth, get up and down from the toilet, clean yourself after you finished doing what you do?

Did you need any help (because sometimes asking in a different way gets a different answer)

Have you had any changes in vision/hearing/sensation?

Where do you live (house, apartment, trailer?)

Any stairs to get inside or go upstairs or downstairs?

Do you have a hospital bed at home?

Do you have a walk in shower or a tub with the shower?

Did you have a raised toilet seat? Walker? Cane? Tub bench or tub seat?

Were you working? What did you do?

It’s a lot of information. I get an idea about what you were doing before so I can see what level you’d like to get back to. Depending on the injury, that might mean tweaking some things, or just helping you to grapple with the realization that life as you knew it won’t ever be QUITE the same. If you were doing everything for yourself, BY yourself, we move into what I like to call the “prove it” section of my job.

I ask you do to those things. Get yourself dressed, get yourself bathed, get up and down from the toilet. Before I do any of that, I make sure you can get out of the bed.

If you don’t have a hospital bed at home (and you probably don’t), I lay your bed flat and take the rails down. Now, if you have ever been in a hospital bed and had a serious injury, you might be able to see how this INSTANTLY gets some ppl pissed off. They tell me they need to pull on something. Now, I been getting out of a regular bed for YEARS now, and there isn’t anything to pull up on. If you can’t get out of the bed without help, those other things you were doing for yourself before might be things you need help with, too.

Once I see how you are doing, I can make a plan to help you get back to it, or find out what supports you will need while you are building yourself back to that level. That might include equipment or it might include a short stay in another hospital for more intense therapy.

Why do you care?

I’m not physical therapy. Sure, I need to see how you walk, but I’m not teaching you how to do it. If you have to keep seeing me, you can’t take care of yourself. Think about it- what does it matter if you can walk if you can’t do what you need to do when you get there?

Just an FYI, because NO ONE knows what I do unless they have had to have OT. I feel like ol boy from the 5 Heartbeats sometimes “‘Every night I gotta fight to prove my love”) because every day, MULTIPLE times  a day, I’m telling someone why it’s important for me to see them.


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