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Health and Wellbeing

What to Expect From a Occupational Therapist Assessment

Samantha Shann - Occupational therapist

Samantha Shann

26th September, 2023

Occupational Therapist Assessment

Occupational therapy, sometimes called OT, is solution-focused and concerned with helping people of all ages to carry out everyday activities they want or need to do. Occupational therapy defines tasks or activities as ‘occupations’ and acknowledges the complexity and skills required to complete these daily activities. For example, dressing, washing and leisure pursuits, such as reading or gardening.

An occupational therapist is a health and social care professional, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (UK). They will work with you, and where appropriate, your family to enable you to participate in everyday life to the best of your ability.

Why do you need an occupational therapy assessment?

Occupational therapy assists people at all stages of their lives with physical, cognitive, and emotional advice and interventions. However, people typically have an occupational therapy assessment following a change in functional capabilities. For example, difficulty getting around your house or remembering how to complete certain tasks, such as making a meal, getting dressed, or difficulty returning to work.

These changes in function may be due to:

·       The ageing process

·       Surgery, for example, a hip replacement

·       An accident, such as a fall or road traffic accident

·       A medical diagnosis, such as COPD, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis

·       Or, following a cerebral vascular accident (CVA / stroke), or heart attack

An occupational therapist will complete a personal assessment focused on your well-being and ability to participate in daily activities.

Holding hands during assessment

Where does an occupational therapy assessment take place?

The assessment will generally occur in your home, although if you are in hospital, it may start there. Follow-up assessments, if required, may take place at your workplace or in the community depending on the areas of intervention you and your occupational therapist agree upon.

What happens during the occupational therapy assessment?

Occupational therapy is very person-centred, so your occupational therapist will be interested in “what matters to you” rather than “what is the matter with you”. Occupational therapists see beyond diagnoses and limitations, focusing more on potential and aspirations.

The occupational therapist will ask you and your family and/or carers a range of questions to gain an understanding of your daily routine, what you like to do, what your strengths are, what challenges you are experiencing and what support you receive, if any. They may also ask you to show them how you complete some activities, such as getting in and out of the bath and your bed, in and out of your chair or on and off the toilet; this gives them a more accurate understanding of your limitations. They may also ask you to make a hot drink, enabling them to observe you moving around your home and your ability to cognitively and physically sequence and complete tasks.

Following the occupational therapy assessment

The occupational therapist will write a detailed report highlighting your strengths, challenges and support systems. They will then make recommendations that are not only personal to you, but also practical and achievable.

Occupational therapy recommendations may involve:

1. Environmental adaptions for example a level access shower to assist with washing or a stairlift.

2. Adapting the activity to enable you to complete it safely and as independently as you want or can; for example, teaching you alternative dressing techniques if your range of movement is limited.

3. Assistive products, such as a raised toilet seat, a bath lift, an adjustable bed or a rise and recline chair to help you transfer more safely and easily whilst protecting your joints.

Grab bar

Questions you may want to ask your occupational therapist:

Occupational therapy is a science-based health profession so you can ask your occupational therapist about your diagnosis, injury or illness, including recovery times and/or how your diagnosis may progress. Understanding how your functioning may alter over time is a good starting point for future-proofing any adaptations you make to your home or any new products you may invest in, such as adjustable beds.

You can also ask them about possible funding options and any financial grants you may be eligible for.

As occupational therapists are experts in adapting occupations, you can discuss with them alternative ways to carry out tasks you have difficulty completing, including advice on energy-saving techniques and pacing yourself. Advice can also be given to family members and carers to ensure that the support they offer you is safe and appropriate.

How can you find an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists in the UK  work in the NHS, Social Services and sometimes directly in GP surgeries. You can ask your GP, consultant, nurse, physiotherapist, or other health professionals to refer you to occupational therapy.

Equally, there are many private occupational therapy services such as The OT Service, who you can contact directly and request an assessment.

In conclusion, an occupational therapy assessment will be solution-focused, based on your strengths and challenges. An occupational therapist can enable you to future-proof your home and any recommendations will be realistic and personal to you - enabling you to carry out and participate in your chosen activities to your full potential.

"As an occupational therapist, whenever I recommend a product to a client, my reasoning is based on understanding the persons needs, their physical and cognitive limitations and how the product may help them and/or their carer to stay safe and comfortable. An adjustable bed, for example, can offer someone comfort and joint support, enabling them to get more restful sleep. The motor functions, such as raising the backrest can also help them get in and out of bed more easily, often reducing the amount of assistance they require from their partner or carer."

Samantha Shann

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