It so happens that cooking is a remarkably good way to gauge someone’s recovery from a brain injury.
It takes physical abilities such as standing balance and tolerance, visual perception, and upper limb control and strength; and cognitive skills such as planning, concentration and memory.
And getting someone home and back in their prior roles, including back into the kitchen – with whatever new tools and strategies are needed – is the primary goal of occupational therapists Cath Brabrook and Susan Elms.
They took the Leader behind the scenes as the nation marked OT Week this week and World Occupational Therapy Day on Saturday.
Our primary role is to maximise a person’s function to return to their pre-injury roles.- Susan Elms
Ms Elms said their primary role was “to maximise a person’s function to return to their pre-injury roles” – reflected in OT Week’s theme: Reach Your pOTential.
One of the main tools the OTs and their colleagues at Tamworth hospital’s brain injury unit use is the Transitional Learning Unit (TLE) or, by its friendlier name, Kameruka.
Clients can reside at the two-bedroom house on the hospital grounds and test their readiness to resume life back home.
“The TLE is a stepping stone, if you like, from an acute hospital setting to their home,” Ms Elms said.
“It gives people the opportunity to maximise their independent living skills in a more homelike environment … and enables the whole of our team to assess them.”
The OTs might work with people with spinal cord injuries or brain injuries, for example; they said people often came to them after a road accident.
While living at Kameruka, a client might also do therapies such as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, psychology or speech pathology.
The OTs will help and assess their ability to do everyday tasks such as meal planning, shopping and laundry.
To help a client transition back into their workplace, they might visit to identify possible modifications to their tasks or the working environment. Ms Elms also does on- and off-road driving assessments.
Occupational therapists can also be found in many other settings, including community health, private hospitals and private offices.
Ms Brabrook said it was a “really good job to have if you want to live in the country; it’s really diverse”.
Ms Elms said an OT needed to be “very much a people person, flexible, show a great amount of empathy [and] resilient – not everyone is going to be appreciative”.
“It’s very rewarding to really return a person to their previous roles in a manner that suits them,” she said.
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