Occupational therapy is a broad and highly practical field. It can help people of all ages and with varying conditions to return their function and participate in the activities of daily living. It’s all about getting folks to engage fully in the “occupations” of life, with minimum discomfort and difficulty.
At Holy Name Medical Center’s Creamer Family Physical Rehabilitation Center in Teaneck and HNH Fitness in Oradell, occupational therapists (OTs) help people with a variety of physical and neurological issues, chronic or acute. We teach patients with injuries, impairments, or disabilities how to adapt and function effectively to improve their quality of life.
Improving Function throughout Life
In collaboration with patients and their families, we develop personalized treatment plans that can include exercise, training in movement, instruction on using adaptive equipment, and more. We work with physicians, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers to devise holistic evidence-based therapies.
An initial evaluation involves assessing the patient and learning what their pre-injury or pre-illness activities were at home and in the workplace to see where adaptations or accommodations are needed.
Our goal is always functionality throughout the lifespan. Our clients range from toddlers to centenarians. We can help pediatric patients with developmental delays improve their motor, cognitive, sensory processing, and communications skills. We can even help them engage in play – that is their “occupation” after all!
We assist seniors with maintaining the functions of daily living and their independence by looking for adaptive ways for them to move through their world and care for themselves.
OTs also help people navigate their return home after surgery and hospitalization – making sure they can handle safe transfers to cars, tubs, and other places; and that they can dress themselves. We also make sure their environments are modified, as needed. This includes teaching patients how to use adaptive equipment, like a grabber to reach things on a high shelf or a device that helps them put on their socks and shoes. For patients who have been immobilized for an extended period – like some who have recovered from severe COVID-19 infections – we help them gain independence by getting back to their daily activities.
Not Just Chores, But Hobbies, Too
The approach we use is highly personalized and patient-centered – it’s about helping individuals do what is most vital or important to them. This includes hobbies and pleasurable activities, as well as the chores and obligations of daily living.
OTs often treat conditions related to upper extremities – hands, arms, elbows and shoulders. OTs fabricate and use braces/splints to immobilize or improve function for a patient. We work with patients to regain upper extremity strength and range of motion by providing therapy for a variety of hand issues, such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, fractures, nerve injuries, and lacerations.
Ergonomics and proper positioning and safety in the workplace are also emphasized. We also provide vestibular therapy – exercises and movements to improve a person’s gaze and gait by treating symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, and vision issues.
OTs often specialize. I am certified to provide hand therapy and to treat lymphedema, a long-term condition that occurs when blockages within the lymphatic system cause excess fluid to collect in tissues and create swelling in the arms and legs.
The field is varied and there are diverse workplace settings for OTs, including acute care, inpatient/outpatient, subacute facilities, and schools. Occupational therapy is a rewarding career because OTs give people the tools and education they need to function and return to enjoying their lives.
Renee Ferraraccio, OT, CHT, CLT, is certified in hand therapy, lymphedema therapy, neurorehabilitation, orthotics (splint fabrication), and rehabilitation. As coordinator of occupational therapy for Holy Name Medical Center, she works at both the Creamer Family Physical Rehabilitation Center on the Teaneck campus and at HNH Fitness in Oradell.
For OT appointments in Teaneck: 201-833-3085; in Oradell 201-265-1076.