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Stroke Smart Magazine

November/December 2007

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Creative Rehab Techniques

by Rowena Alegrķa

As a student at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., occupational therapist—(OT)-in-training Katherine Bouchard marveled at the “bag of tricks” experienced OTs used. Working with hundreds and even thousands of patients had taught them inventive ways to complete everyday tasks.

“There are little tips here and there that come from so many years of experience,” Bouchard says. “We thought, 'Why not share those with other people?'”

Students in Mary Free Bed's program are required to complete a project that benefits other students and staff. Bouchard and clinical supervisor Monica Vaughn designed a project for Bouchard to collect and share the “tricks of the trade” from experienced OTs at Mary Free Bed. The tips are basic enough to be used by stroke survivors and their caregivers as well.

Bouchard interviewed the therapists that work in the hospital's four programs: stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury and pediatrics.

She discovered creative and useful techniques. One of her favorites was one-handed egg cracking. (Hold an egg 12 inches above a glass bowl and drop it in. The egg cracks right in half.)

In the end, Bouchard reviewed her findings with all of Mary Free Bed's therapists. It turned out that the egg-cracking tip was among new information for even some of the long-time OTs.

“We don't always have the opportunity to sit down and discuss what works and what doesn't,” says Sue Maddux, stroke program manager at Mary Free Bed. Bouchard's project facilitated that conversation. “And we all learned from it.”

Maddux says that much of a therapist's expertise is learned on the job. “Those ideas that are really considered creative, people just came upon as they were experimenting. It's not like a recipe. You really have to individualize. OTs are very resourceful.”

And their techniques serve almost anyone. “If somebody is struggling with how to accomplish a task, so long as they have some ability to perform that task, they can ask their OT or call a local OT and tell them what they're having problems with,” Maddux says. “If they've had a stroke and been through their own rehab, a lot of them will have learned these techniques already.”

Still, there might be something on the list about which they say, “That's a neat thing. I never thought of that,” Maddux adds.

Although Bouchard's training at Mary Free Bed is over, her project lives on. The list has been entered into a computer program at the hospital. “It's a working file that can expand and be available to students and therapists,” Vaughn says.

Bouchard is proud of her project and hopes the list she put together will continue to help as many people as possible.


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