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AmputeeOT: The Role of Occupational Therapy in Amputee Rehabilitaion

AmputeeOT: The Role of Occupational Therapy in Amputee Rehabilitaion


Hi, everybody. This is Christina, “The AmputeeOT”.
In this video I’m going to talk about the role that occupational therapy can play in rehabilitation after amputation. I’m surprised at how frequently people ask me what the, “OT” in my name, “AmputeeOT” stands for. The OT in AmputeeOT stands for Occupational Therapists. Not a lot of people know what an Occupational Therapist is in fact, even the people who are my clients who come to me to receive Occupational Therapy, don’t always know what Occupational Therapy is. They often will ask me things like, Why would I need occupational therapy? I’m 85 and I don’t have a job. While some occupational therapists work with employment and people who are trying to return to work… most occupational therapists, that’s not their main focus in their practice, so Occupational therapy does not stand for return to work therapy. All right, so what is Occupational Therapy? If you ask the American Occupational Therapy Association they will say, “In its simplest terms, Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Common Occupational Therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes”. However if somebody were to ask me in an elevator what I do is an occupational therapist or ask me what occupational therapy is, I wouldn’t read off that roped definition because that definition doesn’t really take into account a lot of things and to be honest it kind of doesn’t really explain a whole lot either. Occupational Therapists typically work with people with disabilities or people with injuries or people with cognitive delays or some type of impairment that is hindering their ability to perform daily activities or the activities that are important to them. So for example, an Occupational Therapist might help a person who’s become recently injured learn how to dress themselves if they can no longer dress themselves because of their injury. We might work with companies to increase ergonomics, so that people can avoid injuries. A lot of Occupational Therapists work in the school system with kids with different types of disabilities such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida. We work with neonatal patients and their families to help them figure out how to take care of their new baby and we specifically use everyday activities in a therapeutic context. So, for example, where as a Physical Therapist might work on strengthening and range of motion by doing different types of exercises, we might work on strengthening and range of motion by getting in the kitchen and putting the dishes away. The goal of Occupational Therapy is to help people be able to do the things that occupy their time, so that’s where the phrase, “Occupational” comes from in “Occupational Therapy”. I primarily work with people who use manual wheelchairs for my research, and for my clinical work I work in Home Health. Home Health Occupational Therapists primarily work with modifying the environment to make it easier or safer for people, or helping them work on things like getting in the shower, Figuring out how to get dressed, or cook or clean independently… those kinds of things… and we like to say that we, “Put the ‘fun’ in functional”. Some amputees would really benefit from Occupational Therapy, and there are many ways in which Occupational Therapists can help amputees learn to regain lost function and learn to be more independent in their lives after their amputation. Very early on in the process of amputation like say, within the first week or two after a person gets an amputation, an Occupational Therapist can help with figuring out how that person is going to get dressed, transfer to their wheelchair, transfer to the toilet or the commode, get in the shower, and put on any of the devices that are used to assist them in rehabilitating their amputations such as sub triggers or stump socks? If an amputee gets the prosthesis, then a Occupational Therapist can help them with figuring out how to get the prosthesis on if they’re having difficulty getting it on. We can also work on things like energy conservation. A lot of amputees, especially above-knee amputees -and especially especially double above-knee amputees or anybody who’s higher than that- have a lot of difficulty with being able to do the things they want to do without running out of energy. So we might work on energy conservation techniques and those are techniques that you use to conserve energy when you’re doing daily tasks So that you can complete the task without running out of energy. Another way in which Occupational Therapists can really help amputees, is with upper Extremity amputees. This is a huge area for Occupational Therapists. If you’re a new amputee and you’ve just gotten a new Prosthesis and it’s an Upper Extremity Prosthesis, or if you’ve been an amputee for a while but you’re getting any type of prosthesis, Occupational Therapists can really help with fine-tuning the skills that you have with your Prosthesis so you can make it more functional. For example, Occupational Therapists might work on things like picking up objects of different sizes and shapes and densities and putting them into certain locations, they might work on figuring out how to hold a pencil or a writing utensil. Now it’s one thing to get your new Upper Extremity Prosthesis and go home and try to put away your dishes with it. It’s kind of scary and intimidating, but it’s a whole other thing to do it in a safe, controlled environment where you have somebody who’s an Occupational Therapist who can help you do those things so that you can learn how to do them in a safe way and in a way where you will be confident and independent in being able to use your prosthesis… and we can even work on problem-solving tasks such as remembering to take your clothing with you when you go take a shower so that when you get out of the shower you’ll have it and you won’t have to go through the house nude, unsafe on slippery floors without your clothing. I feel like me being an Occupational Therapist really gave me a different insight into what it was like to be an amputee because I had spent a lot of time with amputees and I also understood that function was the most important thing to me, so I didn’t care if I didn’t have a foot. What I cared about is being able to return to a normal life, being able to go back to being active and I knew because of that, that if that’s what I really wanted then amputation would probably be the right choice for me. Also because of my experience with Assistive Technology, with wheelchairs and other devices that people use to assist them in leading more functional lives, I was totally open to the idea of needing a device that would assist me in leading a more functional life and I had no problem with choosing that. It wasn’t something that is uncomfortable for me. To me, using an Assistive Device is basically just a slightly different way of living. It’s pretty much normal everyday for me, and so it wasn’t anything that really scared me. By the way, I actually have a doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy, so I’m Dr. Stephens to you guys. No, just kidding! Actually I’m a little bit uncomfortable with people calling me, Dr. Stevens. To me it seems overly formal and weird, but that’s who I am and I earned it, I suppose. Okay, everybody that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this video. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below. You can subscribe if you like, I’ve got new videos every Wednesday. You can follow me on Facebook. That’s facebook.com/amputeeot and see you later, bye!

12 thoughts on “AmputeeOT: The Role of Occupational Therapy in Amputee Rehabilitaion

  1. Thank you for this video!  I'm in college for occupational therapy and I could never quite explain the difference between it and physical therapy.

  2. There are differences between UK and USA in the definition of OT.  I take it with your accent you live in a city and treat people reasonably locally.   One girl my late wife knew had lost her leg and living out in the wilds never saw anyone after the hospital.  My wife never received any help as she deteriorated from tottering to crutches to a wheelchair – that's in the English countryside.  They say with the cutbacks it's worse now……

  3. I'm curious… How much has your approach toward therapies changed since your amputation? Especially now that you truly understand the challenges from the patients perspective.

  4. as an OT how do you deal with the sensitive situation of telling a new amputee, paraplegic, tetraplegia/quadriplegic that isn't just for now. it is for ever and its time to change and adjust to this new life with out saying this is for ever?

    i have worked with a couple of Tetraplegia some have never accepted there injury and have pretty much given up and just exist and others have taken there accident as the change they needed in there life and have a total new outlook (one of which went back to uni to become a psychiatrist who specialises in helping other tetraplegia)
    how do you change the former into the latter

  5. I had a conversation very similar to how you described your professional title. Once in grad school and once during an interview, I was asked to please not refer to them as Dr. (last name) and to please call me (my first name). One even made it a point to say, "My name is not Doctor."

  6. 🙂 So now I know what the OT in your name ist standing for. For all the germans … occupational therapist = Ergotherapeutin 🙂
    I work with my OT a long time in mirror therapy.

  7. Great vid! I've been an OT for 4 years now. It's such a rewarding career and I can't see myself doing anything else 🙂

  8. I am not an amputee but am writing a novel in which the main character has an upper limb amputation. I found these videos very helpful! Do OTs also works with upper limb amputees. And, if so, how? Especially if the patient's dominant hand was lost.

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