I am dead proud of my second career as an occupational therapist but few know what the job entails. 'So what do you actually do?' I'm often asked. Sometimes people have an idea that I might be involved with doling out equipment to compensate for disability, designing accessible shower rooms or weaving baskets. Yes, I did have a little go at this much maligned craft at university but as I've mentioned before, I was monumentally bad at it and don't inflict dodgy wicker working on others.
Meaningful activity or occupation, forms the core of what I do. I work out what people need and want to do and then see how that can be achieved. Often my intervention will be based around doing rather than talking. It's a really practical and common sense approach to therapy. Most people get it when its explained to them in these terms. It's a philosophy that has come to underpin my own life too. I mostly have my occupational thinking cap on to sort out my own problems.
Now those who know me will confirm that I'm a bit of a maverick. My first profession, taxation, didn't suit though it equipped me with some valuable transferable skills as it forced me to operate in a very procedural way. I'd felt imprisoned by a career path that I didn't want to follow. Occupational therapy's wide remit allows me to go off on tangents and explore pretty much whatever takes my fancy as there's always an argument that whatever has caught the fancy of my busy little mind is relevant to occupation. Could taking the wrong medication for them affect a person's ability to carry on with their everyday life? Absolutely but no-one had really acknowledged this properly so I wrote a paper explaining why that might be. Would being incontinent have a detrimental effect on what you were able to do? Of course! It's not rocket science that fear of weeing or pooing yourself might present a bit of a barrier. I organised a conference to help fellow occupational therapists come up with solutions. Is the diagnosis of dementia a death sentence? Well, we've all got to pop off at sometime. I'm passionate about encouraging everyone, especially those with impaired brain function, to think about what they still want to do with their lives and go ahead and do it. One forgetful yet party loving lady went on an awful lot of cruises because I encouraged her to do so. After all aren't those super liners full of lost elderly people anyway? My latest project involves exploring how to improve quality of life for those people with dementia who exhibit distressed and agitated behaviours that are symptomatic of unmet need. It's a biggie but there's a plan in place!
So that's a bit about what I do but the work of my colleagues is so different. It sometimes doesn't look as if we doing the same job. This lovely little video produced by some students in the US explains what binds us all together.