SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –April is Occupational Therapy Month, celebrating the important role the professional plays in helping people of all ages continue their favorite daily activities after an injury or other impairment has slowed them down. 

“I’m going to put a few down on the ground for you to grab,” Good Samaritan Society Occupational Therapist Anna Stach said during an OT session with rehab patient James Sonen.

James Sonen has been in rehab getting stronger after radiation treatment for cancer.

“Bend at the knees and then push them back up, excellent,” Good Sam OT Assistant Tammy Jans said.

“My balance has always been bad,” Sonen said. “I never could stand up and put my foot in front of the other and try to walk, so I hate to say it, I would not pass a DUI test.”

It’s why his OT team is also working to help improve his balance as Glaucoma continues to take away his vision.

“Vision really is important for your balance, if you have a vision deficient you probably have a balance deficient, higher-level way to strengthen those muscles and help him recover if it’s going to fall,” Stach said.

Balance is just one of the daily life functions his occupational therapists at Good Sam are working on.

“Do you do laundry upstairs?” Jans asked Sonen during their session.

“The goal for James is to get to at home recovery, so he can go home where he does those daily tasks independently,” Stach said.

Whether it’s making breakfast at the stove, putting groceries away in the pantry, washing dishes or even folding laundry, Occupational Therapy is about helping people do daily activities

“Brushing your teeth, that is a daily occupation, its something you have to do, eating, getting dressed in the morning, bathing, going to work, watering your flowers, those are daily activities that we have to do,” Stach said. “We are trained to figure out a way to do those things whether it’s getting stronger or is it doing it differently, that’s where our skill comes in.”

“Push down and slowly come back up, this works on the muscles that are very important so you can push down on your chair when you’re getting up,” Jans said during session.

“They’re so wonderful, they help you so much and they do a lot of different things,” Sonen said. “They have like a putty that you have to find all these pins in and that is a workout, you’ve got to sit there and squish it you know and find these pins.”

Activities that make a world of difference for clients like James being able to make it home on his own once again.

“Those muscles are working very hard,” Jans said. “You’ve been standing for over five minutes.”

“I try my hardest and I try to push extra, ” Sonen said. 

Like many health care professionals, Occupational Therapists are always in high demand. It’s not just for elder care, OT can start at birth for children with special needs and help people of any age after an accident or any kind of physical setback.