Thrive by IU Health

May 28, 2020

Occupational therapist helps patients regain independence

Occupational therapist helps patients regain independence

As an occupational therapist on the Home Care team, Shikina Walton spends her days helping patients regain independence.

“On my first visit, I like to tell patients, ‘you just wait in a month. Remember this moment. Remember how weak you feel and all the things you can’t do,” says Walton.

When that month passes and her patients are resuming meaningful occupations that hadn’t been possible during that initial evaluation, Walton reminds them of how far they’ve come.

“They’re so happy and ecstatic because they’re doing so much more for themselves,” says Walton.

These moments are what attracted her to a career in occupational therapy.

“One of the biggest things we focus on is making people as independent as they can be,” says Walton.

She works with patients of all ages, helping them re-learn everything from bathing and dressing themselves, to cooking meals. For patients with irreversible changes, Walton helps them find ways to adapt and compensate, using adaptive equipment and teaching new strategies and techniques.

Because many of Walton’s patients are geriatric, she’s also become a resource to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of my patients are heavily reliant on others. Family members go to get their groceries or take them to and from appointments,” says Walton. “I’ve been educating them, letting them know—for now you might not be able to have people visit. For the most part it’s been talking about screening and ways to keep themselves safe and not feeling guilty.”

And they’re listening to her. One patient even set up a “COVID station” at their front door with hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

With more than 10 years’ experience as an occupational therapist, Walton always strives for excellence and is committed to continued education.

“You have to put yourself in a place of always learning, even if it is on the weekends or off the clock. I always strive to provide evidence-based and excellent care to my patients,” says Walton.

And her commitment to her patients and her team has not gone unnoticed.

“Shikina has organized meals and support for sick team members, helped out covering areas and patients when her other OT team members can’t make a visit,” says Steve McNeely, regional director of Home Health and Hospice. “She really looks at her patients holistically. She helps them regain independence, improve their safety in their homes, and helps connect them to resources and equipment they need.”

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