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Occupational therapy highlighted this month

There are over 29,000 qualified occupational therapists in the UK and more than 90 working for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, all who have been proud to celebrate their profession for November’s Occupational Therapy Week.

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages to help them overcome the effects of disability caused by physical or psychological illness, ageing or accident. 

The team helps people who are ill, disabled or feeling the effects of ageing to do the things that are important to them – such as preparing a meal, returning to work, or doing a favourite pastime. Occupational therapists work in a variety of roles including helping people to return to work, supporting people with depression, to designing accessible environments and products.

One patient who cannot speak highly enough of the help he has received from occupational therapy is Chris from York who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in January this year.

Chris was forced to move in with his parents in December 2013 when he started with symptoms of general slowing down in function and suddenly became dependent for all his care.

Chris said: "I was so ill that I had to move back to my parent’s home so they could care for me. I found it hard to swallow and speak and couldn’t even lift cutlery to feed myself. I had to be fed and it would take me an hour and a half just to eat a bowl of cereal. During that time I lost three and a half stone and was in a wheelchair, dependent on everyone for help."

Following speech and language therapy and physiotherapy Chris was referred for occupational therapy in July 2014.

Senior Occupational Therapist Beverley Richmond from the Neurosciences Unit at York Hospital explained: "I first assessed Chris in July and his main goal was to be able to return to his home in York and live independently. Together we worked on short term goals and graded activities, such as being able to shower independently and safely and to be safe with stair climbing."

Chris was provided with a shower board to make it easier and safer to get into the bath to use the shower, and a grab rail for safety. He also needed rails at the top of the stairs and by his bed.

A crucial step to Chris returning home was to be able to prepare a hot meal. To accomplish this Chris was accompanied by Beverley to his local shops where he purchased ingredients and prepared his own lunch at home. He continued to practice making simple meals at his parent’s home in preparation to moving back to his own home.

Beverley continued: "To be able to return home to independent living Chris began by staying at his home alone for an afternoon, gradually increasing to staying overnight with an initial visit from our team in the morning. Chris is now living back at his home and spending six nights there and one night at his parents but everything is taken one step at a time.

"Chris has come a long way since his diagnosis, he has worked really hard to get from being so poorly at the beginning of the year to becoming independent once again."

One of Chris’s latest milestones was to complete a bus journey with Beverley from his home to the hospital so that he could get to his hospital appointments without relying on his parents.

Chris added: "I’m becoming more optimistic with each new step. Self doubt does creep in from time to time, especially on a night when I get tired, but every morning I wake up and it’s a new day. I couldn’t have done any of it without my parents who have been marvellous in the way they have cared for me. The NHS has been absolutely fantastic and having good neighbours and a supportive neighbourhood has been very important to me.

"I try to get out for walks and say hello to people every day and I’ve even been able to go back to teaching piano. My next goal will be to go back to the gym!"

21 November 2014

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Photo caption: Chris with Senior Occupational Therapist Beverley Richmond

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