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Occupational therapy helps Raeford woman return to independent life

| Date Posted: 4/13/2010

Occupational therapy helps Raeford woman return to independent life

RAEFORD – Geneva McKeithan’s occupational therapy journey began on a Friday afternoon in the parking lot of a local drugstore. She was getting out of the car when she noticed a weakness in her left leg, as though it might buckle under her.

Brushing off the sensation as a leg that had gone to sleep in the car, she went about her business. But the next morning, she couldn’t stand on her leg or lift her arm to her face. The 79-year-old McKeithan had had a stroke that left her with some paralysis in her left side.

That was three months ago. This month, as the nation observes April as Occupational Therapy Month, McKeithan is much improved. Thanks to friends and family, her own hard work and the occupational therapy she received from the FirstHealth Centers for Outpatient Rehabilitation, she is once again taking care of herself.

“I’m managing fine now,” she says. “I’m getting more and more independent every day.”

Occupational therapy is a rehabilitation treatment that helps improve the physical skills that aid in the activities of daily living. It especially focuses on the use of the hands and fingers, on coordination or movement, and on self-help skills such as dressing and eating. It can also include the design and adaptation of materials, equipment and environment to assist patients in their return to daily living.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy helps patients:

  • Achieve goals
  • Function at the highest possible level
  • Concentrate on what matters most to them
  • Maintain or rebuild their independence
  • Participate in daily activities that they need or want to do

McKeithan’s FirstHealth treatment included developing a home exercise program and using various therapies, such as neuro-muscular electrical stimulation, to work with the muscles in her arm and hand. According to FirstHealth occupational therapist Danielle Benoit, therapy has helped McKeithan greatly increase her range of motion and her fine and gross motor coordination and strength. She is also more independent with her self-care and home management.

“This all subsequently led to increased function, the main goal of OT,” says Benoit, who calls McKeithan a “wonderful, hard-working, optimistic lady.”

“Not only has she been extremely pleasant and motivated, she has exhibited wonderful progress,” Benoit says.

When McKeithan left the hospital in late January, she needed the help of her children and friends to get through the day. Now, after completing occupational therapy at the FirstHealth Centers for Rehabilitation, she is not only living alone and driving, but is also taking several short walks a day.

“I do that every day for about 10 minutes, two or three times a day,” she says.

McKeithan appreciates the help she got from her FirstHealth therapists, calling it “fantastic.”

“I didn’t want to leave them,” she says. “Everybody’s been great.”

For more information on the rehabilitation programs offered by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, call (800) 213-3284.

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