March 31, 2020 – To raise awareness for
Occupational Therapy Month, two Southeast Georgia Health System therapists discuss how their
specialty differs from and complements physical therapy (PT) and how it
improves life after an injury, illness or hospitalization.
Michelle Fort recalls the exact moment she decided to become an occupational
therapist. “My uncle had a stroke at age 42. He gave occupational
therapy (OT) most of the credit for helping him regain his independence
and marry the woman he’d proposed to before the stroke.” Fort
was 29 at the time and never looked back. “I’ve been an OT
for 21 years,” she says. She currently helps people regain upper
extremity function at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Outpatient
Rehabilitation Care Center on the Camden Campus.
Craig Love admits that he based his decision to go into Occupational Therapy
on a short description he read while attending Clayton State College in
Morrow, Georgia. Even though Love really didn't know what he was getting
into at the time, he states "God knew what He was doing when he guided
me to this profession, and I’m so grateful for what has been a rewarding
career!" Love works at the Senior Care Center-Brunswick and feels
very fortunate for being able to work with a wonderful team of therapists.
"I believe it’s an immense honor in getting to help my patients
during what usually is a low point in their life."
How PT and OT Differ
“Physical therapy focuses more on the lower body and the way people walk, and primarily
uses an exercise manual approach in trying to build range of motion and
strength. A good occupational therapy treatment is one that is ‘activity
based,’ with the result of the treatment being that something was
accomplished and that the client becomes more independent in some aspect
of their ‘Activities of Daily Living’," explains Love.
These activities are in, but not limited to, the areas of the client's
work, leisure, or self-care, making
Occupational Therapy a very holistic profession.
“We complement PT when a patient is tasked with learning how to do
daily activities, such as walking to gather items needed to perform grooming/oral
hygiene; cooking, washing or putting away dishes; and on many occasions
gathering clothing in preparation of dressing. Most commonly, we provide
therapy that will assist with balance while standing to pull-up their
pants,” Ms. Fort says.
Both hospital campuses also offer speech therapy which helps patients recover
speech, swallowing or feeding skills after a stroke or other impairment.
Treating the Whole Person
Love describes his approach to OT. "First, I focus on trying to restore
a person’s ability to complete a certain task, and if the patient’s
body just cannot get to this point, then I move towards helping them compensate
for their impairment or disability. I also teach patients about adapting
or structuring their environment in order to promote independence. For
example, use of adaptive equipment in the bathroom, to adjusting lighting,
or to helping modify the environment for wheelchair accessibility.”
Senior Care Center, Love also spends a lot of time with family members in helping them get
the equipment they need, and teaching the skills needed to take care of
their loved ones at home. "OT is an all-encompassing profession.
Even if someone can’t walk or care for themselves like they would
like to anymore, we look deeper into their situation and try to improve
their quality of life in any way we can."
OT takes place in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, homes and outpatient
rehabilitation centers. Fort has also brought OT to “unconventional”
settings like dental offices and warehouses. Her focus on upper extremities
helps those affected by repetitive work injuries, accidents and neurological
damage. She recalls a patient who lacerated her thumb on a broken crockpot.
“She had started a craft business and could not use her hand to
crochet or dye fabrics and was falling behind on orders. With OT and months
of hard work, she resumed her passion of making assorted color scarfs
for her customers.”
In addition to upper extremity, Fort also focuses on improving quality
of life by restoring skills lost or limited by deficits that affect a
person’s independence of daily activities. Fort states. Occupational
therapy is an evolving profession that helps people build skills after
injury, disease or impairment. We accomplish this through education, training
and doing tasks that help them become their best self.”
Fortunately for Southeast Georgia residents wanting to recover function
and independence, Michelle Fort and Craig Love have found their calling.
For more information about Outpatient Rehabilitation Care Center services,
call 855-ASK-SGHS (855-275-7447) or visit