Ask for OT

Are occupational therapy (OT) services covered as part of your health benefits? If the answer is no, you can take action to request that this important benefit be added to your health plan.

Listed below are resources and tools for you to:

  • Learn more about occupational therapy and the benefits that OT services can provide to you and your family;
  • Discover more about how OT services have made a difference for others; and
  • Call or write to your health plan administrator and request OT services be added to your health plan. You will find the tools you need at the bottom of this page.

What is Occupational Therapy?

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Occupational Therapists (OTs) focus on function and independence. They help a person to develop skills, improve physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities, adapt their environment, and/or change the way they do activities. This helps the person better cope with the difficulties created by their own or their family member’s aging, disease, injury, or illness. 

OTs enable change by helping a person to increase their functioning, adapt their skills, maximize the abilities they already have, and problem-solve barriers. OTs work with people of all ages to promote health, prevent disability and develop or maintain abilities so that a person can lead a more productive and satisfying life. 

Examples of how an OT can assist a person include the following: 

  • Self-care such as dressing, eating, moving around, caring for your children or another adult, and housekeeping
  • Productivity in your community, at school and with work activities
  • Leisure such as exercise, sports, gardening, and social activities

OTs:

  • Develop, research and provide occupational therapy services
  • Are university educated health care professionals 
  • Are medically trained to understand the medical and physical limitations of a disability or injury, along with the psychosocial and environmental factors that affect a person’s functioning
  • Are regulated health care professionals. In Alberta they must be registered with the Alberta College of Occupational Therapists (ACOT) to legally provide OT services to a resident of Alberta. Click here to check if your OT is registered in Alberta

How does Occupational Therapy help?

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OTs help a person problem solve why they are having difficulty managing activities that are important to them and that they are responsible for. 

The OT may assess:

  • Your physical abilities such as strength, balance, and coordination;
  • Your cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and organizational skills;
  • Your emotional abilities such as coping patterns and skills;
  • The materials or devices you use to participate in activities such as furniture, utensils, tools, clothes, mobility aids, leisure aids;
  • Social and emotional supports available to you at home, school, work or in the community; and
  • The physical setup of your house, classroom, workplace or other environment.

Depending on what the problem is, the occupational therapist can help you solve it by:

  • Easing the impact that disabilities or limitations have on day-to-day functioning
  • Adapting materials already in use or available to use
  • Recommending and assisting with making changes to the environments where self-care, productive or leisure activities are performed 

OTs use a variety of strategies, techniques  and tools including:

  • Education or instruction on how to do things within the abilities they have – e.g., getting around their community in a wheelchair with more confidence, joining a social group, changing jobs
  • Suggesting activities that will help a person to improve or maintain the abilities they have – e.g., teach relaxation skills, teach organization skills, education on how to use physical activity to improve focus and reduce anxiety 
  • Help a person to improve social, self-awareness or psychological skills – e.g., anxiety management, exposure therapy, accompany a person to a new group
  • Arrange for a person to learn more about, trial or purchase an aid – e.g., special bath bench to be safe and independent with bathing; vehicle modifications to resume driving; use of specific small appliances or tools to make meal preparation more manageable  
  • Introduce a person to a different way to do an activity they enjoy or are responsible for – e.g., playing card holder, sit-skiing, modified exercise program, modified work, how to pace housekeeping tasks
  • Recommend changes to home environment to improve independence and safety and advocate for financial support to make changes – e.g., where to put grab bars and hand holds, whether a ramp or lift is more appropriate to access your house, how to position furniture, work with home contractor on home renovation, help with completing application for funding
  • Advocate for better accommodation in the community through education and specific recommendations – e.g., accessing fitness facility with personal assist dog, extra time or quiet location to complete a test, modified work schedule, funding for recommended aids to use in the community or at work
  • Research and recommend community supports and services that would be a good fit with the person, their activity and their environment – i.e., hiring home services, finding an exercise program, finding a social group, setting up transportation

Occupational therapists can help prevent complications such as the following: 

  • Unnecessary hospital stays and readmissions by assisting a person to follow the instructions provided by their doctor, accessing community resources, and obtaining the medical supplies, aids, and other supports they need to look after themselves 
  • The chance of a relapse or development of a chronic condition by assisting a person to follow their care plan, to problem solve barriers with doing so, and complete applications for financial or social assistance
  • Premature moves into a care home by helping a person to set up their home to be as safe as possible for them and to understand how to use aids and resources to be more independent at home
  • Work difficulties and injuries by assisting a person to be physically comfortable at their workstation, address learning difficulties, be better organized with work activities, and how to improve communication with others at work. The OT can also provide education to the employer and co-workers when appropriate. 
  • Unnecessary problems at school by assisting the student to feel more comfortable and included at school, to better manage learning and attention difficulties, and to interact with other students and teachers in a positive way. The OT can also provide support to teachers and classmates when appropriate. 
  • Underemployment among people with a barrier that can be assisted by occupational therapy including (but not limited to) persons with physical, cognitive or mental disability and/or are impacted by their environment such as having a means to get to work, money to buy the clothes they need to wear to work, and childcare set up. 

 

How My OT Helped Me – Stories from Other Albertans

Meet George: Senior Living at Home

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George is a 70-year-old retired man. He is independent with activities of daily living, but he is also a caregiver for his 74-year-old wife who is in frail health. Since the pandemic, his wife’s home care services have been less reliable, and for the most part they must manage on their own. He worries about her constantly. He has been neglecting his own self-care, they eat less often, and their home is becoming cluttered. There are some repairs that have been delayed until things get better, but this could lead to long-term damage to the home. At times George thinks that life does not seem to be worth living. He does not know where to turn to for help.

George’s son suggested that George consult his private health plan to determine if he could access some support. George realized that he had funding for occupational therapy through his private health plan and used the Search for an OT search feature to find an OT nearby with an interest working with older adults. 

How occupational therapy assisted George

  • Met with George to better understand his concerns and difficulties, met his wife and reviewed their home to better understand if there were any immediate safety concerns
  • Helped George to develop and prioritize his needs and goals 
  • Helped George to understand and use the skills and resources he already had to address his challenges with looking after himself, his wife and their home
  • Provided practical guidance for where to access resources and support for both himself and his wife using government or community funded supports
  • Filled in gaps when other funded resources were limited or hard to find. This included education, listening, coaching, advocacy, and support

Outcome for George

  • After a few weeks, George reported an improvement in his mood and his ability to manage. 
  • With help from OT and community supports George felt able to prioritize immediate and long-term needs. He felt better able to make a reasonable action plan to look after himself, his wife and their home so that they could continue to live safely in their home
  • George is better informed about the community resources available to him and his wife to assist them now and in the future, and if there is a cost for the support

Meet Jackie: Self-Employed, Small Business Owner

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Jackie has been self-employed for 20 years and spends most of the day completing work tasks on a computer and phone from a home office. Four months ago, low back pain started to develop, and it continued to be a problem. With a diagnosis of arthritis, Jackie found that medication, stretching, and therapy (i.e., physical therapy, massage therapy and/or chiropractic) was helpful to manage symptoms.

However, there was frustration that the relief gained from these therapies was essentially “undone” after working in the home office, and Jackie’s family physician was asked what else to do. With the extended health benefit year recently renewed, a return to physical therapy was considered. The family physician suggested that before returning to physical therapy, Jackie consult with an OT for a home office review, as an OT can make suggestions based on the medical diagnoses and responses to other therapies.

Using the Search for an OT search feature, Jackie found a nearby OT who had an interest in worksite assessments. The OT gathered information from Jackie over the phone that included diagnoses, treatments to date, work tasks, and a monetary budget to make changes to the home office.

How occupational therapy assisted Jackie:

  • Attended the home office;
  • Made immediate suggestions for improved posture, provided online resources and offered suggestions for products that could be obtained to further reduce the physical stressors when performing work tasks;
  • Referenced Jackie’s budget and preferred vendor for office equipment, the OT provided additional recommendations for consideration;
  • Encouraged Jackie to follow up with any questions or barriers that might arise; and
  • Suggested when it would be best for Jackie to return to other therapies, giving her some time to benefit from the changes made to better accommodate her with work tasks.

Outcome for Jackie

  • Initially, Jackie found some of the changes provided immediate relief, while other changes took a few weeks to show a benefit.
  • A few years later when another health condition requiring surgery developed, Jackie contacted the OT for a brief consultation on how best to manage following surgery (including making a light meal, using the bathroom safely, being comfortable in bed or in a chair, and exiting/entering the house) and to review the home office for when Jackie felt well enough to resume work activities.
  • Jackie contacted the OT six weeks post-surgery to discuss some of the difficulties involved with gradually increasing work hours. Jackie expressed happiness with the decision to have an OT attend their home for guidance on making changes before the surgery.
  • Because of the changes made pre-surgery, Jackie could manage alone for portions of the day; this allowed Jackie’s spouse to return to work within a few days. To address current difficulties with increased work hours, the OT reviewed the work setup and observed Jackie’s physical abilities and limitations. Guidance was then provided regarding changes to be made, and a reminder to be patient, prioritize necessary tasks, and allow more time to recover from the surgery.

Meet Joe: Facing Mental Health Challenges & Barriers to Employment

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Joe is a professional in his 40’s who was recently hospitalized to stabilize his mental health. He wants to find a job but can’t seem to organize himself or get a consistent routine. He is on short-term income support. Joe has trouble making decisions, managing his time, and resisting impulses to distract himself.  He has cognitive restrictions created by a head injury. His family and relationship patterns are problematic. All this is discouraging and creates a vulnerability to becoming easily overwhelmed and inactive. He wants to start enjoying life, learn more skills for coping with challenges, improve relationships and prepare to return to work.

Joe is currently on a six-month waiting list for therapy but needs help now. Joe is motivated to make changes but is easily overwhelmed by the extent of his problems. He has trouble identifying and accessing his strengths. Joe identifies as a worker and so wants to get back to working ASAP. However, he has been making impulsive unhelpful decisions.

Joe was referred to OT and other professionals while in the hospital. As his finances were limited, he was hesitant to pay out of his pocket for OT. However, he made the call and decided to try a few sessions to create momentum and direction.

How occupational therapy assisted Joe:

  • Joe was given a lifestyle assessment to identify strengths and obstacles as to how he was functioning in his life, for example his self-care, his routines, his relationships and his independence;
  • He was offered ways of identifying the problems and breaking them down into steps;
  • Together we explored alternate solutions to everyday problems and then practiced these new behaviors and strategies in sessions and between sessions; and
  • We took time to integrate what he discovered and apply the learning to other situations.

Outcome for Joe

  • He attended 10 sessions with his OT as he found the method of therapy helpful i.e. to practice skills, do activities, make practical changes to his lifestyle, and develop new strategies;
  • Joe was more prepared for long term therapy;
  • He had developed more insight into his capabilities;
  • He had experienced making some better decisions;
  • He began to use physical and creative activities to regulate and express emotions;
  • Joe developed a routine that was more social and enjoyable;
  • Joe identified markers that would indicate when he would be ready to return to work;
  • He learned more about how he learned best; and
  • A few months later he was back in the workforce.

Ask for OT – Tools

If your current health insurance plan does not include occupational therapy services, you can use these tools to request that OT services be added to your plan.

Write a Letter

Use one of these letter templates as a guide to write a letter to your employer, insurance company or union.

Make a Call or Schedule a Meeting

Use one of these scripts as a guide to call or meet with your employer, insurance company or union.

 

Have questions? Call or email SAOT.

P: 780-803-0350

E: info@saot.ca