UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – April is National Occupational Therapy Month, which recognizes the benefits this specialized healthcare provides.

Jessica Harju is an occupational therapist at Aspirus Health, and she explains what an occupational therapist is and how they help their patients.

“Breaking it up into settings is the easiest way to explain it, so for instance, if someone comes to the hospital after they just sustained a stroke what we would do is go in and evaluate them, ask them questions about their home layout and setting, see what kind of equipment that they have and if they have to manage steps and things like that. We work very closely with the social worker on what they’re going to need to get themselves home and to get themselves home safely.

“A big thing in this area is aging in place and we’re a huge piece to that after something that has happened to them to get them home safely instead of having to go to a skilled nursing facility or something like that. We help them get dressed again, we help them get bathed again, help them go to the bathroom again, using different tools, modifications, little tips to help them keep them safe.”

Harju goes on to explain the differences between occupational therapy and physical therapy.

“So physical therapy versus occupational therapy: we tend to treat the person as a whole. They do as well but what our mindset is that we’re not just looking at balance and muscle strength and things like that, that is kind of what physical therapists do. They have a very large focus on lower body and patient’s balance and strength and things like that.

“Whereas in occupational therapy what we do is see the person as a whole, we get their background on home layout, what their responsibilities are, what their responsibilities are, if they truly are retired, and if they have to go back to a job. We kind of shape the treatment towards that versus PT. Again we kind of fold each other on that, but they’re more orthopedic based and we’re a little bit of everything type of thing.”

For more information on Aspirus Health’s occupational therapy services, click here.

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