Occupational therapists work with patients who have suffered an injury or who are diagnosed with a chronic condition that affects the ability to perform everyday tasks. Therapists help patients create environments at their homes and workplaces that help facilitate productive environments within the limits imposed by their injuries and conditions. During an occupational therapy assessment, an occupational therapist talks to the patient about his injury and limitations to help determine what modifications, devices, and therapy procedures would help him be able to perform daily tasks easier and more efficiently. Therapists often conduct an occupational therapy assessment at their patients' homes or workplaces to see the environments the patients are dealing with to be able to help them better.
An occupational therapy assessment focuses on both the mental and physical limitations of the patient. The assessment is usually ordered by the patient's doctor and begins with an interview, where the patient and the occupational therapist discuss the patient's symptoms and any areas where the patient has trouble. These areas may include daily tasks, such as getting dressed or preparing meals, or mental problems, such as difficulty with short-term memory. Once the occupational therapist has identified the patient's main symptoms and areas of concern, she can help develop a plan to improve the patient's symptoms and make areas of difficulty easier for the patient.
Some occupational therapists visit patients' homes, schools, and workplaces to observe daily activities. Observing patients' daily lives without interference helps therapists identify areas that could use improvement or assistance. Some occupational therapists work permanently at schools or assisted-living facilities to help students and residents with daily tasks.
During an occupational therapy assessment, an occupational therapist can identify exercises that will help the patient. For example, a patient who has trouble getting dressed due to difficulty with buttons and other fasteners may benefit greatly from range of motion and dexterity exercises that focus on the hands. The assessment also offers the therapist insight regarding assistive devices that may be beneficial to the patient, such as handrails or reaching tools.
Patients with mental limitations or disabilities often undergo cognitive tests as part of an occupational therapy assessment. These tests help the therapist determine what modifications and lifestyle changes can be made to help the patient cope with his limitations and continue to live an independent life. Occupational therapists may incorporate memory and reasoning games into a patient's therapy program or teach skills that make daily life easier for patients with mental or memory problems, such as making lists or labeling cupboards that contain essential items.