Healthy Tahoe: Empowering everyday living

Joe Deanovich, MS OTR/L

April, Occupational Therapy Month, offers an opportunity to understand the unique, holistic approach that occupational therapists bring to healthcare. Occupational therapy started in the early 20th century with a focus on improving people’s lives by allowing them to complete meaningful occupations. Most people think of an occupation as “work,” however, an occupation encompasses everyday activities, jobs, sports, hobbies, and roles, like being a parent.

Joe Deanovich

Occupational therapists use research and evidence-based interventions to personalize exercises, education, technology, manual techniques, neuromuscular training, and therapeutic activities to make patients safe and independent in all aspects of their lives. Specific areas of OT include: acute care, neurological rehabilitation, lymphedema management, hand therapy, skilled nursing, home health, and pediatrics.

A person commonly works with an occupational therapist as a result of injury, disease, or accident that makes it difficult to complete daily activities. For example, a disease or injury can affect a person’s ability to drive a vehicle, which impacts their ability to be independent and self-sufficient.

Driving is a complex and dangerous task that requires simultaneous engagement of sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and motor systems. Given its high consequence, it is important for a person to be assessed for fitness to drive, especially if health issues relating to the required functions exist.

Driving assessments are helpful for a variety of clients including: older drivers, drivers with neurological impairments (traumatic brain Injury, stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS, concussion, etc.), and for drivers with other disabilities.

Comprehensive screening and evaluation is done by an occupational therapist and uses a variety of tests focused on strength, coordination, range of motion, visual perceptual skills, reaction time, sequencing, and attention. A therapist may use advanced technology, such as the STISIM Driving Simulator, which simulates a wide range of roadway environments and real-world driving situations to assess patient driver capabilities.

With data provided by tests and assessments, the patients’ care team of occupational therapist(s), referring physicians, and any other providers works together to make necessary adjustments to activity clearance, continue assessment and rehabilitation, set safe limits for driving or order retirement from driving, and coaches them on how to utilize other community mobility resources.

Occupational therapists create quality of life and empower everyday living for all. If you or a loved one are challenged with everyday activities, talk to your medical provider about a referral to an occupational therapist to get life back on track.

Joe Deanovich, MS OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with Barton Rehabilitation Services, offering comprehensive occupational health services for adult and pediatric patients, including hand therapy, lymphedema therapy, neurological treatment, and driving assessment with the STISIM Drive®. A referral from a physician is required to receive Occupational Therapy services. For more information, visit

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