Occupational therapy is an exciting and challenging profession because each patient has individual requirements and the treatment needs are constantly changing. Occupational therapy is a constantly developing profession.
Occupational therapists are unique members of the health team. They enable people of all ages to function within their physical, psychological and social limitations and to regain or maintain their maximum potential with regard to personal care, work and leisure.
They are concerned with people who are treated through active participation in purposeful activities in order to enable them to regain their health, return to their community and to enjoy quality of life. These therapists use a problem-solving approach by first scientifically assessing patients’ physical and mental abilities. In this way problems that may affect the way in which patients are able to care for themselves, hold down a job, attend school or participate in games or sport and utilise their leisure time, are identified.
Treatment plans are specifically designed for patients, taking into account their individual needs and backgrounds. Activities are chosen for their potential to help each patient reach predetermined treatment objectives. Thus, the patients contribute to their own recovery by becoming actively involved. In the case of permanent disability, patients are taught how to use their remaining skills.
Sometimes occupational therapists need to make suggestions with regard to adaptations to patients’ living and working environments, or to provide them with adapted devices to enable them to function more independently. These therapists can also play a preventative role through treatment programmes in deprived communities.
Programmes may be devised for the improvement of physical functions such as power and dexterity of the hands; improvement of mental health, such as social adaptability; improvement in self-care, self-management and personal independence; and promotion of the normal development in a sick or disabled person.
Occupational therapists use everyday activities as a treatment medium. Activities include personal management activities, work activities, recreational activities and play activities. The tools and equipment used are in accordance with each activity.
The main aim of occupational therapy is to help a person to regain self-confidence and to be able to act independently in spite of physical, psychological and social limitations.
Uganda Institute of Allied Health and Management Sciences, University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Pretoria, University of Rwanda, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand