What are the biggest issues in Occupational Therapy?

Interview with the editors of the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy

Claudia von Zweck, PhD, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists Executive Director and Shelley Andrews, SAGE Senior Acquisitions Editor

Last month, SAGE was thrilled to announce that we had been chosen by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) to publish its journal Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy. As a part of this new partnership, Dr. Helene Polatajko, Editor-in-Chief, Jane Davis, Acting Editor-in-Chief, and Janet Craik, Director of Professional Practice, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy came and visited us at the SAGE US office and we had the pleasure of asking them some important questions about future directions of Occupational Therapy. Here is what these three experts said:

  1. What’s the biggest issue/topic in Occupational Therapy right now?

A large growth area:  Some of the biggest issues involve addressing the aging population. Occupational therapists can provide solutions for the challenges older adults and their caregivers may experience at home and within the community.  Other issues include:

Driving– First and foremost, occupational therapists can provide assessment to determine fitness to drive as people age. An occupational therapist may suggest adaptive equipment, or a driving refresher program to keep older adults driving for as long and as safely as possible. When effects of aging impact the driver’s ability to the point that driving is no longer an option, occupational therapists prepare older adults for driving retirement and offer solutions to community mobility.

Dementia- Occupational therapists play an important role in working with individuals

Professor Sue Baptiste, President of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT), Claudia von Zweck, PhD, Executive Director and Shelley Andrews, SAGE Senior Acquisitions Editor.

with dementia in supporting performance (e.g. enhancing self-esteem through reminiscence; maintaining functional mobility), facilitating meaningful occupation (e.g. teaching skills to caregivers to maintain independence in day-to-day functioning, such as bathing; supporting individuals with dementia in participating in meaningful leisure activities) and in developing a safe and supportive environment (e.g. reducing safety risks for people with dementia who wander; ensuring appropriate levels of sensory stimulation).

Ageing in place– Occupational therapists can offer solutions, such as home modification, adapted equipment prescription, and training of careers and supporters to enhance living in place and stave off or eventually plan for transition.

Our researchers also do a lot of collaborative research with other health professionals, such as gerontologists, to help keep people at home for longer.

Emerging  areas: Occupational therapists are becoming a regular part of primary health care teams (grouped with family physicians, nurses, social workers) to address issues around life transitions that affect everyday functioning, even in the absence of disability. An interesting recent example is the case of new parents with cerebral palsy who were in threat of having their baby taken from them as the child welfare agency feared that they could not care for their child – the occupational therapist is working with the parents to help them identify strategies for careful and safe parenting. We need to be going more often into the community to work with people dealing with issues that make everyday performance  a challenge, whether that is due to disease, disability or life changes – the goal is , to enable people to be able to do things they need to and want to do, to live better and longer. More and more occupational therapists are using their knowledge in solution identification for living challenges for people with disabilities to assist people in a variety of life’s transitions.

2. What are some new things that readers of the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy can look out for in the coming months?

In the future, our research will not just surround how occupational therapists assist in times of disease and disability, but also with handling life and transition in general. For example, we’re dealing with issues related to risky sports, such as head injury. Occupational therapists can see how today’s issues will impact life later on.

We are also exploring issues related to military and veterans. We look at research dealing with loss and injury as a result of military involvement from today’s global conflicts.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview to read about Polatajko, Davis, and Craik’s tips and advice for getting published.

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