Many people misunderstand the role of occupational therapists who work with traumatic brain injury patients. They think because of the word “occupational” that they deal solely with the workplace.
While reintegrating brain injury patients back into their communities may involve teaching them how to complete work tasks with adaptations, primarily an OT focuses on the TBI patient’s abilities to carry out the activities of daily living and self-care.
Occupational therapists work in the patient’s home as well as out in community settings to determine what abilities the patients need to relearn. Sometimes an OT will introduce compensatory strategies to help their patient manage certain tasks.
Frequently, OTs are part of a larger therapeutic group that may also include physical therapists, neuropsychologists, social workers and speech-language pathologists. If the TBI patient is able to return to the workforce in another capacity, he or she may also receive assistance from vocational rehabilitation counselors.
Below is a broad overview of typical skills OTs might address:
- Introduce memory compensation techniques like checklists, daily planners, electronic reminders and other memory-jogging aids.
- Help patients develop effective routines and daily schedules.
- Introduce environmental adaptations that provide cognitive, perceptual and physical functioning, e.g., labeled drawers and cupboards, low-vision lighting, etc.
- Help loved ones and friends learn coping strategies to combat frustration and behavioral changes in the patient.
- Provide cues to help patients redevelop social skills.
- Offer instruction and training so TBI patients can resume their activities of daily living.
- Teach patients new techniques for meal preparation, household maintenance, child care, shopping and managing their financial affairs.
Occupational therapy may be temporary and begin while the accident victim is still in-patient at the hospital. In some cases, these services may be ongoing for an extended period. It’s important for a personal injury attorney to include the costs of OT services when seeking damages after an accident.