Occupational Therapist: Helping Others Help Each Other
Being an occupational therapist requires both creativity and practicality, says Carolyn Baum, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association: "It's for somebody who loves to problem-solve," she explains.
Yet the goal is often no more than helping people help themselves with everyday activities. Baum once helped a man whose wife had Alzheimer's disease and was unable to communicate with him. "He was lonely, and he felt isolated," Baum says. "He was caring for his wife but didn't perceive that he was helping her."
But noticing that even though the woman would not start a conversation, she could still read, Baum had the husband place signs near the kitchen table saying things like, "Good morning, Bill. I love you." The woman would read her husband the sign when she sat down to eat the breakfast he prepared for her each morning. "That was a very little thing, but it was meaningful to them," Baum reflects.
Helping family members, in addition to patients, is a big part of the job. "When people are providing care for another person, they need to feel like they're appreciated," she says. "We have to figure out how to make them feel like they're doing something right so they can continue to give that care."