Occupational therapy: Planting seeds for a healthier life

The opening of 30 Hope Drive on the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s East Campus has provided a variety of opportunities to patients and therapists alike. For individuals with limited mobility, strength or endurance, participation in leisure activities is at times limited because of the physical demands they require. Inability to participate in these purposeful activities because of an injury, illness or disease may be detrimental to the overall health of the individual. This interruption of the individual’s typical daily routine may result in the loss of independence, decreased self-esteem and withdrawal from other physical or social interests. For these reasons, it is imperative that the individual participate in meaningful activities to maximize functional mobility and independence at home.

To improve independence, goals are selected as a therapeutic activity on the basis of individual treatment ideals and client interest. The patient and therapist explore the patient’s interests and needs to promote re-establishment of desired activities and goal achievement.

Occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to adapt therapeutic activities, such as gardening, to address physical needs as well as improve emotional and spiritual quality of life. Functional activities can help maintain and improve range of motion, strength, coordination, sensation, movement patterns, and endurance. In addition, participation in therapeutic activities may also help improve cognitive and perceptual goals to help focus attention and awareness, judgment and retention, abstract reasoning and problem solving or to enhance higher level component skills such as sequencing, categorization and discrimination. Additionally, these activities can offer emotional and psychological benefits, such as a sense of pride and mastery, improved self-image, enriched feelings of enthusiasm and interest and concern for the future.

The team at 30 Hope Drive has provided opportunity for involvement in these meaningful activities. During outpatient occupational therapy, the patient participates in therapeutic gardening by planning, planting, and maintaining a vegetable patch; complete with green peas, eggplant, tomatoes and flowers. Penn State Hershey Therapy Services at 30 Hope Drive provide easy access to the garden, with raised flower beds and smooth walkways to improve the individual’s accessibility and participation. This unique opportunity has allowed patients to rekindle their love for outdoor activities while simultaneously working on improving or maintaining their functional physical health. In return, the skills and confidence acquired throughout therapy sessions will make for a more gentle transition from goals accomplished during therapy into daily routines in their home.

Therapeutic opportunities provide hope, purpose, discovery, involvement and reestablishment of desired therapeutic activities following a period of prolonged physical, mental or spiritual hardship. The Medical Center’s skilled occupational therapy team is prepared to help patients regain confidence and faith, planting seeds in hope for a strong and fruitful recovery. For more information, please call Penn State Hershey Therapy Services at (717) 531-8070.

Occupational therapist Pamela Hudson gardens with her patient, Samantha Hill. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 18, 2010