Demand for occupational therapists growing

The demand for occupational therapy is growing, especially in rural assisted living facilities.
Published: Apr. 29, 2023 at 12:08 PM CDT
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MOUNTAIN LAKE, Minn. (KEYC) - The demand for occupational therapy is growing, especially in rural assisted living facilities.

In Mountain Lake, a therapist says the job comes with its challenges but is extremely rewarding.

”They taught me how to transfer from a wheelchair and no, they didn’t do my hair. I always did that myself,” said Good Samaritan Society of Mountain Lake resident Leola Gohr.

After some medical issues drove Leola Gohr to the hospital, her daily routine became too hard on her own.

“I was afraid, you know.”

For the last three years, she’s been receiving care from occupational therapists at the Good Samaritan Society in Mountain Lake. She can now do things on her own again.

“I have a regular set of exercises. I have what I call my arm exercises, which is my upper body and I have my lower exercises which are my legs and that type of thing,” said Gohr.

Occupational therapist, Beth Nelson, has worked here for over a decade. She says that her job does include helping her patients physically, yet that’s not the only thing they emphasize.

“We work a lot on caregivers assistance and education. We deal with cognition and safety awareness issues that people have so it’s kind of like a lot of professions wrapped into one.,” said Nelson

A big part of her job is to also help them navigate through this new journey in their lives.

“Really go through the counseling part of dealing with somebody on the acceptance of the cards they’ve been given and sometimes you can’t do more than your body is giving you the ability to do,” Nelson added.

The US Census bureau says that by 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older. Nelson says as they get older, they’ll need more care. And many of the facilities where they live are now hiring.

“It’s just like any profession where we have a surplus and then we have a little bit of a need. It’s a little bit harder staffing in rural Minnesota just because a lot of people aren’t moving to this area,” added Nelson.