Occupational therapy – A valuable healthcare service
The World Health Organization (2022) reports that almost everyone will experience a disability at some time in their life. The Jamaica Information Service (2022) recorded that approximately 500,000 Jamaicans are living with disabilities.
Occupational therapy (OT) is a valuable healthcare service that treats people with injuries, illnesses, as well as cognitive, physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities. Client-centred solutions are created to restore one’s ability to participate in the activities of daily living. These are activities that we take for granted, such as being able to take care of our personal needs like feeding and dressing ourselves, work, play, leisure, as well as engaging in social activities. The inability to do any or all of these activities can be a debilitating and frustrating experience.
Occupational therapy is focused on enabling participation where even brushing your teeth or organising a full day’s activities is a challenge because the individual’s function has been compromised by a disability.
Functional activities that are necessary for independent living are analysed and broken down into small achievable parts for the patient/client to practise. It is unfortunate that many persons who have acquired a disability because of disease, road traffic accidents, sports injury or a mental illness. or who were born with a disability, will never achieve independent living. This is because he or she will never be taught modified self-care techniques or fitted with appropriate adaptive devices, such as dynamic splints, or have their homes or workplaces assessed and adapted to allow them to continue to work and live independently. Some patients may leave hospital or their home for some physical therapy, but the majority will not be exposed to any therapeutic intervention.
Occupational therapy for children born with developmental delays and disabilities increases the child’s ability to learn skills and overcome challenges, so that they can succeed in school and life. The child with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder benefits from OT to improve self-regulation, attention, and learning. For persons with mental disabilities, assessments are used to determine any performance barriers to activities of daily living, such as self-care or the ability to manage money or their medication.
The occupational therapist, as a member of the health rehabilitation team, should be in different practice settings – hospitals, schools, homes, rehab facilities, clinics. Currently, 10 occupational therapists are serving the Jamaican population of three million people in hospitals, schools, and private practice. Only two occupational therapists are employed to government hospitals in mental health. We are often reminded that healthcare is more than the absence of disease. Occupational therapy is critical to improved patient outcomes.
When patients/clients are prepared to return home to continue the business of living, it has been proven that this reduces the burden on the healthcare system for readmission and, ultimately, lowers the national healthcare costs.
We celebrated Occupational Therapy Month in October, and the Occupational Therapy Association of Jamaica is urging an increase in the numbers of occupational therapists for the Jamaican population, who deserve to live their best lives after illness, disease or injury.
Dr Teina Daley and Dr Pauline Watson Campbell, occupational therapists, are members of the Occupational Therapy Association of Jamaica.