An Occupational Therapist (OT) helps amputees (or people with any kind of disability) function fully as if they did not have the disability. An OT will help you participate in everything you would like to, with or without the use of assistive devices (typically a prosthesis, in the case of an amputation).
Typical activities may include everyday functions like:
- Self-care – getting dressed, eating, moving around the house,
- Being productive – going to work or school, participating in the community
- Leisure activities – sports, gardening, social activities.
While a Physiotherapist directly treats a a person’s injury using techniques such as manual therapy or acupuncture, an occupational therapist tends to focus more on evaluating and improving a persons functional abilities. An OT focuses more on improving life skills and incorporating adaptive tools to help people improve their ability to carry out their daily tasks.
Considering the above role of an OT, he or she is most likely to be your best friend during your rehab process post amputation.
There are a few important factors to consider before you decide on an OT. The first one is to create choices. Evaluate a few OTs, and make notes during your evaluation sessions. Will they allow you to set your own goals, or are they working with a predefined set? It should be you deciding what you would like to accomplish from your OT. Do they have a keen eye for detail? Are they intuitive & inventive? An OT is required to come up with ways to do things, as a disabled person would need to do due to their limitations. The OT needs to put himself/herself in the other person’s shoes, & create techniques to accomplish tasks.
One of the most critical factor is whether you can genuinely be friends with this person. This person will be required to think outside the box to help you devise new strategies to complete your chores. This can at times be very frustrating, especially with new amputees. So, it is important that they bring in a sense of play to diffuse the tension, are able to understand & empathize with you, & are aware of your personal preferences.
The other factor is that they should be willing to go out of process (within reasonable limits) to help you out, if needed. This might seem a lot to ask, but there are some fantastic OTs out there, and this article should motivate you enough to select the right one for yourself, because it will make a world of difference.
The following is a note I received from my Occupational Therapist when we touched base after two years due to my relocation.
“I am happy to hear from you and hope you are doing well. I want to thank you for your kind words. My inspiration is reciprocal as I learned a lot from you when we worked together. You are bright and I appreciated the time when you ‘challenged’ me to think outside of the box. I always thought that Therapy is an Art and a Science and that how Recovery is Unique to everyone of us.”