April is Occupational Therapy Month – Celebrating the ‘Creativity of OT’

Brio Living Services Occupational Therapist

Brio Living Services, formerly UMRC & Porter Hills, celebrates Occupational Therapy Month and, in particular, the occupational therapists who serve older adults at our five PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) sites across lower Michigan.  One of those dedicated professionals is Debbie Johnson at Thome PACE in Jackson, Michigan.

Debbie has been an occupational therapist (OT) for five years, and at Thome PACE for the last three.  “I’m a big fan of the PACE model,” says Debbie, who first learned about PACE during an internship with a PACE center in Battle Creek.  She also taught first aid and CPR there.  “I like the idea of helping older adults remain independent in their homes and communities.”

Occupational therapy is an important part of that, says Debbie.  “I love the holistic approach of OT to care for the whole person, not just their injury or their disability.  We provide meaningful activities that are person-centered and geared to their individual needs.  We get to guide their journey back to independence.”

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy is “a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to participate in daily living or to live better with injury, illness, or disability.  This is accomplished through designing strategies for everyday living and customizing environments to develop and maximize potential.  OT takes the full picture into account – a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social make-up.”

“Many people think occupational therapy is about a person’s job,” says Debbie, “but OT focuses on all the activities we do every single day, from getting out of bed, to doing laundry or walking the dog.  They may be everyday activities or things like gardening that our participants have enjoyed doing all their lives.  We help the person work with their illness or disability to regain those abilities.”

Debbie says OTs are “out-of-the-box” thinkers.  “I like the creativity of OT.  Our jobs are life-changing for our PACE participants.  We help bring back their self-worth, pride, and joy into the person’s life.”

Debbie is one of three OTs at Thome PACE, including April Kral and Josh Stoll.  Together, they serve approximately 200 Thome PACE participants.  Some participants come to the PACE Day Center, but Debbie says they see many participants in their homes.  “It’s nice to see the home to know what we’re working with and to help make modifications – anything from rearranging furniture, to transfer benches, bed assist bars, and shower seats.”

Debbie adds, “Families will come to us thinking their loved one can’t live at home any more.  OTs are qualified to evaluate a person’s environmental and physical barriers, and we have the skillset to turn a barrier into a positive.”

To learn more about Thome PACE and Brio Living Services’ other PACE sites, visit our website at:  https://mybrio.org/medicare-pace-program-michigan/