Stroke & Occupational Therapy
Strokes affect people in unique ways and Occupational Therapy works to offer rehabilitation and support services that are tailored to the individual.
What is a stroke?
Strokes can be caused by a blockage to, or a bleed in the brain leading to a reduction in blood supply to a specific area. Without a fresh supply of oxygenated blood, the tissue becomes damaged or dies. The physiological and cognitive effects of a stroke vary depending on the location within the brain. For some, the effects will be minor and a recovery almost complete, whereas for others the effects can be life-changing and mean that they are likely to always require the assistance of others.
What are the common difficulties associated with a stroke?
Strokes effect people in different ways depending on their location in the brain and severity. Common difficulties following a stroke include:
- Reduced mobility - increased or decreased tone in the upper and lower limbs (arms and legs) causing them to be in fixed positions.
- Difficulty with memory, thinking and insight - struggling with driving or walking previously familiar routes, reduced concentration and focus.
- Aphasia – This affects your ability to speak and understand what others say. It can also affect your ability to read and write.
- Weakness on one side of the body - not noticing things on one side of you, such as an arm or leg, having fallen out of the bed.
- Personality and behaviour changes - The loss of a person’s former identity can result in depression, anger, and frustration.
How can occupational therapy help following a stroke?
Occupational therapists often work with clients and their families following a stroke to help them on their rehabilitation journey or to adjust to a new version of normal. The role of a occupational therapist can vary depending on the needs of the client and can cover both physical and cognitive treatment. Below are some of the ways that an occupational therapist can help following a stroke:
Sometimes following a stroke a client's level of physical ability is reduced. This can mean that they home environment can pose significant barriers to their independence and quality of life. An occupational therapist can work with clients to remove these barriers with solutions for the bathroom and toilet, accessing both floors of the property and getting in and out of the property if a wheelchair is being used.
Carefully selected specialist equipment can provide significant assistance to clients and their carers following a stroke. Whether it be wheelchairs, armchairs, beds or hoists, the right equipment can reduce risk and maximise a client's independence.
Occupational therapists work with clients to set and achieve rehabilitation goals. For some, this may be to get themselves washed and dressed independently and for others, to return to shopping and preparing meals or to paid employment.
Occupational therapy is an essential step along the road to recovery after stroke.
Mental Health & Occupational Therapy
The ongoing impacts of the pandemic have caused significant disruption for many Australians and managing your mental health during this time of change and uncertainty can be an ongoing challenge.
Importance of Mental Health
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood.
Mental illness varies from person to person and can include depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress and personality disorders.
According to Australia’s Health 2020 report, 1 in 5 Australians reported that they had a mental or behavioural condition.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation.
Life is made up of meaningful everyday activities or occupations such as walking the dog, gardening, preparing a meal, painting, doing the laundry and playing games. Occupations are part of life; they describe who we are and how we feel about ourselves. When we can’t participate in daily occupations, due to injury, illness, disabilities or social and environmental circumstances, occupational therapists help find solutions to address the meaningful everyday activities of life.
Occupational therapy also helps manage disability or illness and enhances the way we participate in our communities and lives.
Put simply, the primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life.
How do Occupational Therapists Help?
Occupational therapy recognises that everyday occupational engagement influences mental and physical health and vice versa.
Occupational therapists believe that occupational performance, organisation, choice, and satisfaction are determined by the relationship between persons and their environment. They approach mental health with the unique perspective that considers a person’s needs within context of family and community.
What do Occupational Therapists do?
- Work with clients and their families to identify the occupations and activities that are important for family and personal life.
- Help to plan, initiate and track short and long term goals that enable participation in those activities.
- Help replace unhealthy activities with healthy, meaningful activities.
- Assess skills, interests, values, and strengths in order to help clients maintain, modify or find appropriate employment.
- Implement activities that teach valuable skills e.g. social skills training with a peer support group.
- Help structure lives and organize daily activities so that clients can balance everything they want, need or are expected to do.
Cognitive Assessments - What are they and what to expect at Living Strength OT
At Living Strength OT we work with a number of different clients and assist them through an initial assessment called the ‘Initial Functional Needs Assessment’. Most of the time we do this in the client’s own home so we can get a full understanding of their lifestyle.
This might sound quite intense but it does cover an overview of how a client goes about their daily living and as we delve deeper, we can then understand what the client’s overall goals are and how we can help them achieve them as quickly as possible.
One of the activities we undertake during this initial catch up is what we call a cognitive assessment – below we will run through what this activity is and what to expect.
What is a Cognitive Assessment?
A Cognitive assessment is used to determine a person’s general thinking and reasoning abilities, also known as intellectual functioning or IQ. Intelligence testing can assess various parts of a client’s cognitive capacity.
Cognitive and neuropsychological tests can measure memory, language skills, math skills, visual and spatial skills, and other abilities related to mental functioning. This all helps us to diagnose a client's condition accurately. For example, people with Alzheimer's disease often show changes in so-called executive functions such as problem-solving, memory, and the ability to perform once-automatic tasks.
What we may look at?
- Verbal comprehension: understanding verbal information, thinking in words and expressing thoughts in words.
- Perceptual reasoning: ability to organise and reason with visual information, and to solve visual problems.
- Working memory: ability to retain and manipulate verbal information.
- Processing speed: ability to scan, process and identify information accurately.
Usually, the average score for IQ and various domains is between 90 and 109. Higher scores represent higher cognitive functioning and lower scores represent poorer cognitive functioning.
Some of the typical tests we undertake at Living Strength:
Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination III (ACE-III)
Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)
Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)
Should I be worried about a cognitive assessment?
Absolutely not, these tests are painless and are purely designed to give our staff the best idea of how we can support you. If you have any concerns, our team can run through each of the steps with you to help ease any concerns.
If you have any further questions about how we work through cognitive assessments, contact us today and see how we can support you or your loved one.
Miriam - Occupational Therapist
Miriam makes up one part of the wonderful team at Living Strength Occupational Therapy. We wanted to take a little time out to find out more!
Miriam, what made you get into the industry?
I wanted to be in a role that was able to help people in a really practical way. I was really interested in being part of the health industry and felt that OT was the perfect position for me. I love that as an OT I am able to engage personally with each client and holistically evaluate how best I can assist them improve their independence, safety and quality of life according to their goals!
What do you believe is the best part of your daily job?
Simple - My clients. I love sitting and chatting with each person. Hearing their stories and sharing a cup of tea. I love bringing a bit of light in to their day.
What has been your work highlight to date?
Watching clients become increasingly independent with activities and tasks that have been so difficult for them previously. Whether it's helping them feel safe and confident to walk independently to their local shops or something as small as being able to open a jar of honey independently. All the little wins make such a big difference!
We are passionate about helping our clients achieve more independence, better health and greater quality of life. We understand that being able to perform the everyday tasks can be life-changing so we tailor our services to each patient’s individual needs.
As Occupational Therapists (OTs), we are trained in a broad range of health sciences in order to deliver a holistic approach to patient care. Understanding the client first, their culture, family and values, along with their medical needs, is essential in creating a detailed plan for real quality of life.
If you would like to book in some time to see if we can support you through wonderful OTs like Miriam - please click here and speak to one of our friendly team.
Understanding Mental Health and how OT can help!
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence through to adulthood. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
An Occupational Therapist looks at how a person’s function is impacted by their mental state. Mental health is key when considering any occupational therapy intervention to empower and motivate a person through periods of change.
At Living Strength, we focus on improving a person’s function and promoting independence by providing treatment, intervention and strategies for all ages with chronic illness. The following are how some occupational therapy is used to support a people with mental health recovery:
- Assisting with identifying healthy habits, and with implementing them to establish a lifestyle that contributes to overall wellbeing. This involves removing and managing barriers, and promoting a supportive environment.
- Educating clients and supporting the uptake of coping strategies in order to assist the management of symptoms.. This may include techniques and developing strategies to independently participate in activities of daily living.
- Supporting long-term planning processes to meet personal recovery goals, including budgeting
- Providing resources to enhance awareness of community-centered programs
If you are concerned about yourself, a family member, or someone you know, contact our friendly Occupational Therapy team for a chat on 02 4340 0883.
Cognitive Impairments - What you need to know.
What exactly is cognitive impairment?
Cognitive impairment is not an illness, but a description of someone's condition. It means they have trouble with things like memory or paying attention. They might have trouble speaking or understanding, they might have difficulty recognising people, places or things and might find new places or situations overwhelming.
Family and friends might notice that someone with cognitive impairment is confused, agitated, or very moody. They might notice a change in their speech or behaviour, or that they have difficulty with their usual daily tasks.
Cognitive impairment can come and go, it can also be mild, severe, or anything in between.
How can this affect my loved one?
Cognitive impairments can affect a person's ability to perform daily functional tasks. Some examples include the inability to formulate, plan and execute a process without structure, initial support or guidance. Impact may be seen in areas such as short-term memory impairments, auditory processing impairments and visual–spatial impairments.
This can be distressing to you and your loved one. Seeking professional support can help ease the burden and trauma.
How can Occupational Therapy Help?
Occupational Therapists can create changes that can help people with cognitive impairment rediscover their independence and live their lives as closely as they did prior to the change.
Occupational Therapists aim to reintroduce meaning and value to daily life.
Some of the Occupational therapy interventions include:
- Setting up aids, such as reminder apps, to help perform tasks at the right time, and assist with a smooth flow of work activity.
- When auditory processing impairments are present, training the person in compensation strategies.
- Training individuals on the best ways to engage with the environment when visual impairment is present.
- Setting appropriate goals to develop rehabilitation that will improve abilities in attention, problem solving and analysis, whilst minimising distraction.
- Designing relaxation techniques to manage stress and restore effective sleep patterns.
- Understanding and addressing the person’s mental health to assist successful functioning with the aim to resume a valued and productive life that supports their self-esteem.
- Assessing the prospect of resuming driving, which can significantly affect a person’s ability to return to work. Some practices have specialist driving programs, however general occupational therapy practices can also undertake driving assessments.
Our Occupational Therapists maximise the opportunities to integrate methods that empower people with cognitive impairments and through occupational therapy intervention can reintroduce value and confidence back into everyday life.
What should I do next?
If you are unsure on what the next steps are, please give our friendly team at Living Strength OT a call. We can help run you through options, costs and actions to help improve the quality of life of yourself and your loved ones.
Did you know that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 have a fall each year? Falls can have a big impact on a person’s confidence, mobility and independence but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of a fall at home. Occupational therapy can help you, or someone you care about, reduce the risk of a fall allowing you to pursue the activities you enjoy most by helping you active, healthy and independent.
At Living Strength OT we value the importance of evidence-based research on fall prevention along with how to implement effective intervention and strategies that are based on sound research. Fall prevention programs have been shown to be most effective when they address multiple risk factors. These factors may include poor balance, leg weakness and taking multiple medications.
Our Occupational Therapists observes and considers how the person performs their daily activities in their day-to-day environment. The screening process includes educating the person how to identify and solve problems to reduce trip and fall hazards.When assessing risk it is particularly important to consider and reviewing multiple risk factors prior to implementing effective intervention. Reasons for this are to reduce the likelihood of falls, increase the person’s confidence and improving the person’s independence.
If you are concerned about yourself, a family member, or someone you know, contact our friendly Occupational Therapy team for a chat on 02 4340 0883.
Energy Conservation & Occupational Therapy - Why It Matters
What is energy conservation about?
Energy conservation refers to the implementation of principals and techniques that may preserve a person’s energy level whilst they complete activities throughout the day. This may assist in minimising muscle fatigue, joint stress, and pain.
Conservation promotes using your body efficiently and doing things in a sequential way to save your energy. Implementing strategies may enable you to preserve your levels and allow you to remain independent that would last throughout the day. It’s important to get the most out of our day and limit fatigue.
For some people, daily activities that seem easy to others can be very tiring. Through energy conservation, people can complete everything they want to, and still have energy left over.
At Living Strength, the Occupational Therapists may help you in different ways, including:
- Teach you strategies on how to perform activities with efficiency
- Provide you with equipment that can help you complete a task independently
- Advise you on how to change certain parts of your home or work environment so you can perform activities with less energy
- Assist you to set goals that are achievable and realistic
Some key principals include:
- Prioritise activities performed throughout the day
- Planning your day to make the most of your energy
- Pace and taking regular breaks is an ideal way to balance your energy levels and complete all the task
- Reviewing your posture such as sitting can preserve energy as opposed to standing, and the use of perching stools can be very useful.
- Reduce the amount of activities you are doing daily. Dressing gowns, which can be used instead of towel-drying, are great for reducing bending and stretching. Letting dishes air dry also reduces the need to unnecessary use energy. Sitting down for activities is also great for some down time.
- Asking others for help is great for completing tasks safely and quickly. Sharing the load can significantly reduce the amount of energy you spend on tasks, and is a clever way for saving it for other important things.
- Maximise your relaxation time! Make sure you have comfortable chairs with back support.
Contact our friendly Occupational Therapy team on 02 4340 0883 for further information on Energy Conversation techniques.
Does my child need Occupational Therapy Support?
At Living Strength Occupational Therapy we work with people of all ages! Our aim is to help anyone live a life, full of joy and adventures through the support of occupational therapy (OT).
Children often have troubles grasping a few of life’s key skills, so it isn’t unusual for parents to seek professional help. For example did you know that a child struggling to grip a pen properly can be a common issue?
Remember, you are not alone and there is professional help to support you.
How does OT support a child?
OT is a treatment that works to improve both fine and gross motor skills as well as motor planning. It can also help kids who struggle with self-regulation and sensory processing.
The therapy is tailored to each child’s specific needs. Before it begins, an occupational therapist (an OT) looks at the child’s strengths, challenges and the tasks that they have trouble with. The OT will then create a program of activities for the child to work on.
When should I consider seeking support if I have concerns?
The earlier a child starts OT, the more effective it tends to be. Being able to do basic tasks can also help build up their self-esteem and confidence. Confidence can drop when they are struggling, especially in front of their peers.
Building confidence early is always best.
What will Occupational Therapy do?
At Living Strength you will hear us refer to ADLs or 'activities of daily living' - this is our key focus. ADLs for example can include, struggling with everyday tasks like using a toothbrush, handwriting or dressing.
Living Strength OT’s use a scientific approach to provide the best occupational therapy interventions available. As part of a holistic approach with the parent or the child’s guardian, these interventions consider the motor skills of the child, their activity demands, home environment, their routines and habits.
Our Occupational Therapist may work with children on many different activities, here are some examples:
- Self-care or activities of daily living (brushing teeth, buttoning clothes, using eating utensils).
- Hand-eye coordination (writing on a classroom whiteboard, copying in a notebook what the teacher writes on the board).
- Fine motor skills (grasping and controlling a pencil, using scissors).
- Gross motor skills (doing jumping jacks, working on core muscle strength for sitting posture).
- Planning and organisation (helping a teen plan a trip to his locker to swap books or gym clothes for the next class period, using a graphic organiser for writing).
- Sensory responses (helping kids with sensory processing issues to respond to sensory input in more comfortable ways).
What should I do next?
The best next step is to discuss your child’s unique needs with the team at Living Strength. No question is too big or small, so please reach out to our friendly team.