Occupational Therapy Turns 100!


By: Lora Foust, Occupational Therapist (O.T.)

This April we are celebrating the centennial anniversary of Occupational Therapist (O.T.) becoming a profession. The profession has changed much over the 100 years since it started as a profession, even in the past 30+ years since I’ve been involved. Since then, we’ve created practices, workshops, certifications, academic programs, accreditation standards, and much more! The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents 213,000 occupational therapy practitioners and students in the United States.

The United States Department of Labor describe the work that occupational therapists do as: “treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.”

I personally chose to go into this field because it’s a helping profession that uses my psychology training, creativity, and my belief that meaningful activity is healthy. My favorite thing about my job is to see the smile on a patient’s face when they do something they did not think they could ever do again or do a desired activity for the first time.

There are several misconceptions that I see with the O.T. profession. Some people have a belief that our job is to help someone

Lora Foust, O.T.

get a job, or that it’s the same exact thing as a Physical Therapist. Both of these are untrue. The word “occupational” is used to indicate meaningful or functional activity, such as eating, dressing, or casting a fishing line. Physical therapists (P.T.) traditionally use physical modalities, such as heat, massage, or exercise. Occupational therapists traditionally use therapeutic activity, such as games, crafts, or self-care tasks. These roles are more blended now with both using physical modalities and therapeutic activity; however, the P.T.s are experts on the lower body, spine, and neck, while the O.T.s are experts on the upper body and sensory issues.

A favorite memory of mine was of a two-year-old boy who was so uncomfortable with any sensory experience; he would not sit on a swing, even 2” from the ground. After working with us for a while he could climb to the top of the waterslide at the Maslowski Center, slide down and swim to the rope by himself! Another patient that sticks out to me was of a woman that I treated who was 100-years-old. She could no longer see or hear baseball games on TV. I got her set up with a digital book player that could be adjusted to a low and slow tone she could hear. She could now listen to baseball stories! These things change the patient’s lives, but also me as their Occupational Therapist. What keeps me motivated every day is seeing my patient’s progress.

About the Author: Lora Fourst, O.T., has worked for Tri-County Health Care for nearly six years. She received her Bachelor of Art Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. She also completed her Master’s Certificate in Low Vision Rehab.

No sight? No problem! Living with Low Vision

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Is life over when you lose your vision? Not if you are Sam and Lora Foust! Thirteen years ago, when we considered making our relationship permanent, Sam asked me, “You know I’m going blind, right?” I replied, “You know I am an occupational therapist, right?”Church Greeters Easter 2014 (1)

Through the Veteran’s Administration Blind Services, Sam learned computer skills, woodworking, cooking and improving his mobility using a white stick. It was so exciting to see him gain confidence and enjoy meaningful activity again, I took it upon myself to go back to school for more learning! I enrolled in the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s (UAB) Occupational Therapy Program in Low Vision Rehabilitation.

As an occupational therapist, I specialize in helping people get back to doing everyday tasks after experiencing an illness or injury. For nearly four years, I sacrificed most of my off-work hours to learn more about low vision, assessing it and treating it. Then, I collected evidence of my knowledge, skills, ethics and advocacy related to low vision rehab and presented it in a 35-page application to the American Occupational Therapy Association. Today, I am recognized as having a Specialty Certification in Low Vision rehabilitation, which only one percent of Occupational Therapists has attained.Certificate

Sam and I moved to the Wadena area about five years ago while I was still enrolled in my on-line master’s level courses at UAB. We chose Wadena because of the opportunity to serve at Tri-county Health Care. We stayed because of the great team at TCHC and Wadena’s fantastic local transportation system (Friendly Rider) available for Sam to easily use.

Do you have low vision or know someone who does? Low vision is a vision impairment that cannot be improved by further medical intervention (glasses, surgery or medication) and interferes with performance of daily activities.

Do you wish to continue doing your own finances, but cannot see and read the figures? Do you love baseball, but cannot see or hear the television very well? Have you missed the last step of the stairs because you thought you were at the bottom already? Did you give up a favorite hobby because it is difficult to see? Do you wonder if you should still be driving a motor vehicle? If you answeLora Foust Headshotred yes to any of these questions, you may have low vision just like the patients I work with in my role as an occupational therapist. These examples are all from people who have been helped by occupational therapy at Tri-County Health Care. It is a joy to be involved!

Aquatic Therapy

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By: Lora Foust, Occupational Therapist

Lora Foust, OT

Lora Foust, OT

I am an occupational therapist who works with people of all ages to become more independent in daily tasks. Do you know what a privilege we have to do aquatic therapy? I challenge you to research aquatic therapy and sensory integration or autism spectrum disorder, stroke or cerebral palsy, arthritis or fibromyalgia, among others. Water is comforting and relaxing. It was the first medium our bodies knew in the womb. Its buoyancy decreases weight and stress on the joints. The hydrostatic pressure reduces swelling and offsets blood pooling. Its viscosity allows therapists to increase or decrease how hard the person trains and increases body awareness. The therapist can use flow or drag to make the therapy fit the person’s needs. I witnessed aquatic therapy in Germany years ago. In one setting it was used to bring back movement in limbs that were affected by a stroke. Another client had lost a limb in an accident and was learning his new center of gravity with the support and safety of the water. A child with special needs was learning to walk. In Mercy-North Iowa in Mason City, a therapist friend of mine led a group called “Rusty Hinges”. People with arthritis learned to move without pain. Aquatic therapy is not for every patient or every condition we treat, but it is a wonderful tool to use with some. I can hardly wait to get started!

Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic Therapy

Stacey Sellner, PT, speaks about the benefits of Aquatic Therapy next to the warm water therapy pool at the Maslowski Wellness & Research Center: