Understanding Occupational Therapy’s Role in Recovery
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Published on April 11, 2017

Understanding Occupational Therapy’s Role in Recovery

Occupational therapy is one of those health care services for which we often hear the question “What is that, exactly?”

While you might be like most people and think it relates to jobs or job training, the definition of occupational therapy is simple: Our lives are made up of these simple “occupations” such as eating, getting dressed, bathing and cooking, to name a few. Avera occupational therapists work with patients to incorporate these daily occupations into the rehabilitation process. They get you back to doing the activities you love and living a productive life.

April is National Occupational Therapy Month, and we are taking time to teach the general public about the importance of Occupational Therapy (OT). This year is also the centennial of OT as a discipline, so it’s a special year and month, and to celebrate it, we’re sharing the stories of people who have first-hand experiences about how OT has helped them.

Sioux Falls native Chuck Levasseur, 62, was active in the community, singing in his church choir and a barbershop quartet. Chuck also served as volunteer with the VA in Sioux Falls, transporting patients from place to place. But that all changed last winter when he noticed some changes in how the left side of his body was functioning. He went to have it checked and learned he’d had a stroke.

Chuck worked hard as an inpatient in therapy and then went home. He still had muscle weakness, particularly in his left hand, and he even struggled to close his fist. The lack of coordination he suffered, and the struggle to make movements on that side made him tire quickly, even when performing simple daily tasks.

Chuck started outpatient occupational therapy in January, and at the beginning, nearly any small task was trouble for him, but with the help of his OT team, he has made progress over the last three months. His goals – being able to independently take a bath, tuck in his shirt, open containers and feed himself – seemed straightforward. Chuck’s OT treatment focused on rebuilding his arm and hand strength. The exercises and work with coordinating movements paid off: he’s noticing those routine tasks are becoming easier and he’s starting to get better movement back in his left arm.

He now can pick up and place items on a shelf, make a fist with his left hand and pick up smaller and smaller items. Chuck’s collaboration with OT allowed him to regain his independence, and now he’s washing his clothes at home and has returned his voice to the church choir.

With the help of occupational therapy, he’s getting there, and now his sights are set on returning to his volunteer post with the VA.

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