What is an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists (OTs) are health care professionals who help people learn or re-learn to manage the every day activities that are important to them, including caring for themselves or others, caring for their home, participating in paid and unpaid work and leisure activities. The people occupational therapists work with may be having difficulties because of an accident, disability, disease, emotional or developmental problem or change related to the normal aging process.

Occupational therapists work in hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities, mental health facilities, rehab clinics, community agencies, private homes, public or private health care offices and employment evaluation and training centres.

Occupational therapy is a regulated health care profession in Ontario.

( College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario http://www.coto.org/)

Occupational therapists define an “occupation” as much more than a chosen career. Occupation refers to everything that people do during the course of everyday life.  Each of us have many occupations that are essential to our health and well-being.  Occupational therapists believe that occupations describe who you are and how you feel about yourself. A child, for example, might have occupations as a student, a playmate, a dancer and a table-setter.

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Occupational Therapists in your home

Many of the clients an occupational therapist sees in  their home  have complex health care needs and are struggling with decreased function due to illness, aging or  catastrophic  injuries.  Patients or families who ask for an occupational therapy visit want to know whether them or a loved one can function not only independently but more importantly safely. When visiting the client in their home, an occupational therapist is able to assess how the person functions in various tasks including lifting, getting up from a seated positioning and reaching for items. They well then determine where their strengths lie and where they may needs help and suggest changes to implement around the home.


Safety in the Home

An occupational therapist will perform a safety audit of your home and make recommendations to decrease the risk of falls or injuries in your home. For example, an occupational therapist can recommend or check that bathroom grab rails are properly installed, and suggest additional ways to prevent falls and other injuries.

Just to be safe…

  • Keep all important numbers by every telephone in the home. Where possible, pre-program emergency numbers.
  • Maintain a first aid kit in the home and in the workshop.
  • Ensure regular servicing of fuel burning appliances such as oven, water heater, space heater, wood stove, furnace, fireplace, etc. to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Install smoke detectors according to your local Fire Department’s recommendations and keep these in working order.
  • Keep a flashlight beside the bed.
  • Install motion sensor lights on outside pathways; keep shrubbery trimmed back.
  • Get to know your neighbours and watch out for one another.
  • When away, even on weekend trips, follow tips to reduce the risk of home invasion. For example, adjust automatic timers on your lights, ask a friend or neighbour to pick up your newspapers, mail and check the house daily, arrange for snow removal or lawn cutting.

(Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists  http://www.caot.ca/)

Occupational Therapists’ Qualifications

Occupational therapists are experts, recognized by government and consumers for evaluating and promoting performance in daily occupations. For example…

  • The Canada Revenue Agency recognizes occupational therapy as a tax-deductible medical expense.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency allows occupational therapists to authorize disability tax credits, and income tax for services provided to someone with a physical disability by a nonregulated health provider.
  • Occupational therapists are authorized to prescribe assistive devices such as wheelchairs, mobility devices and communication aids in provinces with provincial assistive device funding programs.
  • Many consumer organizations require an occupational therapist’s authorization for co-funding assistive device purchases.
  • Provincial governments recognize occupational therapists’ credentials for assessing mental health competency.
  • Provincial governments recognize occupational therapy driving evaluations for assessing an individual’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

(Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists  http://www.caot.ca/)

Extended health coverage

Most extended health plans have coverage for Occupational Therapy and as all services provided will be under the care of a Registered Occupational Therapist so you will be reimbursed by your plan. Please check with you carrier to see if you require a physician’s prescription for reimbursement, as well as to determine your coverage.

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