Occupational Therapy for Daily Tasks

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Careful as I typically am, icy conditions recently got the best of me. I slipped and fell, causing me to break my left wrist; and I am left-handed. These few weeks since my injury have given me an increased appreciation for the challenges of daily life that our patients face, many for the remainder of their lives. Simple tasks like taking a bath become an evening’s event, with each step deliberately thought out and planned. Everything takes so much longer.

In the early 1990s, when much of my work as an OT involved signing off on evaluations and progress notes, I had the wherewithal to have a rubber stamp of my signature. It has sat unused until this recent fracture and has been quite handy for signing checks and certain other documents.

Unable to neither drive nor tie shoes, a friend drove me to a nearby sporting goods and athletic shoe store, Body n Sole, where they put elastic laces in one of my pairs of shoes since all the shoes I own require tying. I asked another friend to bring me a bag of 100 dental flossers that make small work of flossing my teeth.

It’s also cold here and I need to get out for doctor appointments. Even my largest mitten does not fit over the hard cast that extends over part of my hand. The clever OT that I am, I slip the affected arm into a stretchy legwarmer if I need to leave the house.

Kitchen tasks are tricky. It may be awhile before I can safely use a knife to cut up an orange for breakfast. And opening most containers, medication or food, is virtually impossible. Thanks to another helpful friend, my medication and vitamins sit in containers that stay open.

Meal preparation has been doable. For breakfast I can make hot tea and cook oatmeal with some yogurt and a glass of milk. Lunch or dinner can include salad from a bag and a handful of cherry tomatoes. I can make soup if it comes from a box instead of a can. I can toast bread one-handed, and can cook frozen veggies such as Brussels sprouts on the stovetop as well as put some kind of protein entrée in the oven. I have a cupboard filled with yummy canned goods, but for now they can only be opened by someone else.

I discovered that for those of us who are seniors there is access to free rides through a local social service agency. Also, several of the nearby grocery stores deliver, as do some of the pharmacies.

So what advice do I have for those reading this? Get a stamp made of your signature and a black ink pad. Own at least one pair of slip-on shoes or those with Velcro. Have at least one button-down shirt, a sweater and a jacket that fastens with something other than a zipper. Find a can opener that works by just using one hand.

And if the unthinkable happens, reach out to family, friends, neighbors, and your church community because people truly find joy in being helpful.

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About Author

Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L has been a licensed occupational therapist since 1974 as a consultant, instructor, public speaker and clinician. She has worked in numerous settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, and has performed wheelchair evaluations, and done home visits for children ages birth to three as well as older adults. Debra has been an instructor in the Parkland College occupational therapy assistant program and has supervised therapy students. She has presented occupational therapy seminars around the country. She has been an item writer for NBCOT for several years.

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