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Your Healthy Community: An occupational therapist (and her patient) you should know

By By Katie Sciba
April 4, 2014 at midnight
Updated April 3, 2014 at 11:04 p.m.


I always like sitting down at their kitchen table in their yellow house. It is a home visit and work for me, but it doesn't seem so. My patient's face is brighter today and that makes my day brighter, too.

"You seem more at peace with things," I said to him. He nodded and said, "Yes. I am better."

My patient has had multiple strokes, and the last one caused cranial nerve damage in his right eye.

"I'm not sure what we would have done without Alison (Alison Wartsbaugh, our AARN occupational therapist). She really went the extra mile to help us understand what happened in his brain during the stroke," my patient's wife said.

We were all feeling emotional at that point, so I asked, "How about your eye? Are you still doing work on that with Alison?"

"Yes, she has been doing vision rehabilitation, and you can see that it has helped," the patient said.

I did notice that his eye looked improved. Even though there has been recovery, this patient continues to have daily struggles with the effects of his health problems. His wife and their family work as a team to care for him and encourage him to be as independent as he can. Caring for him has been rewarding for our AARN team.

Having seen evidence of her intentional care, I count myself privileged to work with Alison Wartsbaugh.

Wartsbaugh has been working as an occupational therapist since 1995, and she has worked in home health care for three years. Alison has worked in inpatient, outpatient and community re-entry programs.

"My job is to help people learn to function in their own environment. It is more about function than it is about movement," she said, adding that occupational therapy is building skills for the job of living. "If you can get stronger, great. If you can't, we adapt the environment to work for your function."

Wartsbaugh said she enjoys home health care occupational therapy because the best way a patient gains more independence at home is learning how in their home.

The best part about working with patients in their homes, she said, is the uninterrupted time in their real environment.

"It can be very difficult to assist a patient in realizing they must accept that the way they function must change," she said.

With the patient, she has enjoyed educating the family because they work so hard as a team. She has helped him become more functional and less dependent through adaptations to his environment.

She has worked with him on building back his oculomotor skills to strengthen his eye. She has also helped him adapt to learn safety in mobility without right eye vision like learning to get dressed with double vision.

"Helping people become more independent and improve their quality of life is the best part about my job," she said.

Thank you to the occupational therapists in our health community. We are grateful you assist people to build skills for the job of life.

Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.

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