Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Stroke Survival~ OT-The Other Therapy

I've always thought of OT (occupational therapy) as the other therapy. I've even discounted the need for it because has to do with adapting rather than recovery. There. I said it. I apologize to Rebecca and Amber, both truly gifted OTs.

I'm a results orientated person. While I'll study the steps to get to a certain point, it's getting to that point that's important not settling for less. In this respect, PT (physical therapy)is king while OT is the lowly jester. OT gives you a sense of accomplishment while on your way to the bigger goal. It also catches you when you tumble while shooting those bigger goals.

For example, I'll use my spastic arm which I've been in OT for over a year. Mainly we are doing stretches to ease my spasticity. If the spasticity can be reduced, then there is hope for recovery of my upper arm function. That's a major goal for me. The relaxation and extension of my elbow is either all on or all off at this point. But we are working on this.

OT is learning how to function while on your way to your goals. In my mind it's a stalemate action. Functioning while waiting for the next breakthrough.So it's settling for what you got.  Well not totally, but still it's like plateauing in progress. Nobody really wants it but you have to deal with it.

Occupational therapy deals with ADL (activity of daily living). How to adapt. I don't want to adapt but recover, but until I do I need to know how to take care of my daily needs. The longer I go post stroke, I find all sorts of show-me-how type questions to ask my OT. They aren't basic ADL type questions either. Most of the basic ones have already been answered. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the answers for me. Like washing the outside of my glasses. But what she does do is allow me to use her as a sounding board for possible answers. We bounce ideas off each other until we come up with a plan that works for whatever I want to do.

This increases her knowledge base and adds oil to my squeaky cogs in my brain. Sure I still want to recover everything I lost with my strokes but I realize it will take time maybe even decades. Until then, I want to increase my know-how-to-do-it base of knowledge. I'm adding more and more data into this file each and every day. So I can function beyond my basic ADLs and expand into my survival mode again.

There are many things in my Are You A Survivalist or a Prepper? book that I can no longer do without help. Too many things require two functioning hands to accomplish, but I get by doing all that I can. If I had to set up my solar panels and water catchment system now, it would be almost impossible. I would find it difficult to dig a well for  fresh water. But I can purify it into potable water. I can grow vegetables and fruits to feed me and my family. I still have the working knowledge.

An ordinary OT couldn't answer these how-to questions for me. They didn't have the basic knowledge to advise or show me. I had to figure out a way on my own. Butchering rabbits and chickens was slow going, but I achieved it. It may have not been a perfect job, but I did it.I'm just thankful it wasn't twenty or thirty of them at a time instead of four.

The OT in the rehab hospital couldn't tell me the best way to cook on my rocket stove or solar oven for this very reason. At home, this is all I had to cook on. I had to buy a toaster oven and rice cooker when I came home and eventually a standard stove. But now after almost three years of trial and error, I can cook on the previously mentioned things again.  Yes it takes many more steps to do it all than before, but I can do it.

So I'm looking forward to Spring time and a new garden full of vegetables and herbs, chickens, and rabbits. I know I can do it. My OT is curious enough to want progress reports on how I do. Do I expect to trip and fall, and have trials and errors? Oh yeah, I do, but it's all part of my learning curve my OTs have taught me. The OTs have prepared the soil for me to plants my own seeds to sow and even succeed at it. To me these are my extended ADLs. Beyond the basics.

So watch for updates here as I use what was originally shown me marry what I knew in self sufficiency occupation.  For me, these were my activities of daily living and will be again. My grandsons built me three new elevated raised beds for Christmas. Perfect for my new herb garden. I do love fresh herbs to cook and make medicinal teas with.

The occupational therapists can only take you so far. That is as it should be. The rest is up to you. What ADLs do you do that they didn't teach you after your stroke?

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. You don't want to be where you are, but fortunately you've found ways to grow beyond it.
    Those elevated beds were a good idea. Nice of your grandsons to build them for you.

  2. I've said it before and I'll say it again--Jo, you're amazing!


  3. It's odd, Jo, because I have always thought the opposite - that my OT's worked with me on more valuable things than my PT's. Not that I like adapting rather than DOING, but, as I could walk with a brace and cane within 2 days of having a stroke, the more important goal for me has been to use my hand. I was presented from the beginning that a PT works on your lower limb, the OT on your upper. Sure, I'd love to walk better, but what I'd REALLY like is to be open and grasp with my hand.
    PS, I would LOVE to have raised beds.

  4. Barb,
    It took me several months to transition to a cane to walk even with a brace. I agree with you on the hand part.

  5. Yes, my in-patient PT put a generic (L-shaped) brace on me and got me up and around on second day. Only 100 feet, maybe, because I was hyperextending my knew until I got a fitted brace instead.


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