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Ask the Expert: Am I eligible for occupational therapy?

Answers provided by Emily Guggenberger, COTA-L (licensed certified occupational therapy assistant)

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across their lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Sometimes those things become a challenge after an injury or medical episode or disability. Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness or disability.

Occupational therapists can help people regain daily functions, including cooking, getting dressed and caring for themselves. File photo

What are some examples that would make someone eligible for occupational therapy?

If someone has any decline in function, including dressing, and other daily living activities, they are eligible for occupational therapy. For example: After a person experiences an episode, such as a stroke, occupational therapy will help them learn how do things like get dressed and care for themselves using one side of the body, only if they no longer have use of a side. Occupational therapists can also make sure that they are able to continue doing the hobbies and things they love. This is why I chose the career path I did.

How does someone begin the referral process for occupational therapy?

After a medical episode or diagnosis a potential candidate will need to obtain an order from their primary medical doctor or hospitalist upon discharge.

How do they determine if they are out-patient or in-patient occupational rehab candidates?

An assessment will be scheduled to see how well they are at home and determine whether they need in-patient or out-patient care.

Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:

• an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,

• customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and

• an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Is it true that occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person?

Yes… absolutely.

Does insurance or Medicare cover occupational therapy?

Yes, Medicare does cover occupational therapy. Individuals would want to make sure to check with their health insurance company before beginning occupational therapy.

April is Occupational Therapy Month, so if you’re interested in learning more about occupational therapy, visit The American Occupational Therapy Association at

Emily Guggenberger, COTA-L, has been in the occupational therapy field for 10 years. She is employed by RehabCare and works at Mother of Mercy Senior Living in Albany, in the Therapy Suites.

To learn more about the occupational therapy services at Mother of Mercy Senior Living, call 320-845-2195. Mother of Mercy is located at 230 Church Avenue in Albany.

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