Occupational therapists lead awareness campaign to support patients
Managing everyday life with physical, mental or developmental ailments can be challenging for children and adults. This is why Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness occupational therapists are hosting awareness days to educate staff and others about patients’ lived experiences and the importance of occupational therapy.
Occupational therapists treat physical, mental, developmental as well as emotional ailments that can hinder an adult or child’s ability to do everyday activities. Through their assessments and interventions, occupational therapists can help people regain or maintain independence to do important daily activities.
This year’s awareness campaign coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month in October and was hosted by occupational therapists from community health facilities in Kraaifontein, Delft, Durbanville, Elsies River, Bellville South and Bothasig.
Kraaifontein Community Health Centre’s (CHC) occupational therapist Mariechen Breytenbach says that patients with different backgrounds and conditions visit their facility every day; and they should be treated with compassionate care.
“There is so much we can do for our patients and that starts with awareness on what occupational therapy is and teaching staff and others about our patients’ lived experiences. Through awareness, we can ensure that patients who require occupational therapy are referred to us as soon as possible, so that we can help them become independent to ensure they can do everyday things. For instance, an arthritis patient may require occupational therapy if they can’t do everyday things for themselves, like lifting utensils to eat. They may feel lonely and isolated due to a lack of independence or understanding from others. Through occupational therapy, we offer practical solutions to help our patients become independent again. For example, occupational therapists will suggest equipment you may find helpful, like a fork with a large and chunky handle to make it easier to lift. Other examples include walking sticks or tap turners.”
Patients, together with an occupational therapist, will determine their strengths and challenges they experience at home, school or work. These challenges may include getting dressed or doing chores at home due to a physical, mental or cognitive condition.
This was the case for Kraaifontein resident Alida Makay who had a stroke earlier this year. Alida joined the awareness day at the Kraaifontein CHC to share her story.
“I had a stroke on 30 April 2023. At the time I was admitted to Karl Bremer where they took care of me. I spent under a week there before I came home. I was referred to the Kraaifonetin CHC where I met my occupational therapist. Together we did exercises to help me, especially with my hand. I couldn’t move my left hand or do anything with it after the stroke. I am so grateful that I can move it again and do chores in my house after therapy. I can move around my house again. I could not use my left hand at all. It was important for me to regain movement in my hand. I motivated myself and my therapist, Mariechen, she really inspired me. She motivated me not to give up and together we got my hand moving again. I am grateful to her and the hospital team.”
Safieja Cloete, from Kraaifontein, lives with rheumatoid arthritis. She says occupational therapy has made a difference in her life.
“I live with rheumatic arthritis. I have pain in my hands, fingers, joints. It is very painful. But my occupational therapist provided things to help me like a wrist brace to make things easier for me. We have also received help with our utensils in the house like knives to make it easier to lift and something to help us open the tap easily. I had to have two operations at Tygerberg Hospital which helped and then I came to Kraaifontein where they further helped me. At Kraaifontein day hospital they also gave me a shower chair that helps me and a walking aid. I get a little better every day and thank the healthcare workers for their support.”
Without proper care, patients struggling with daily activities may experience anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. Haseen Sonday, Durbanville Community Day Centre (CDC) occupational therapist says this is why awareness campaigns are important.
“Struggling with daily activities can also affect a child or adult’s mental health as patients may feel anxious or experience depression. We find this happening particularly with our older patients. They may feel like nobody talks about what they’re going through or asks how they’re coping. We do our best to empower our patients. We do this by listening to what they need and together we find practical ways to empower them, so that they can do what’s important to them again.”
During their awareness campaign, occupational therapists displayed various devices and methods used to support patients. A sensory station was also set up to create awareness about autism. Through their work, occupational therapists help various patients, young and old, affected by various accidents, ailments, surgeries, age-related diseases, or disabilities.
These services are available at no cost to community members at our community health centres. Speak to your healthcare worker about accessing care for you or your loved ones.