Hi, my name is Donna and I’m an Occupational Therapist in VisAbility’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Services. As the first dedicated ABI visual assessment and rehabilitation facility in WA, I work with people all across the state who have had their vision affected as a result of a brain injury.
An acquired brain injury is a type of brain damage that has occurred after birth, so a big part of my job is to help people get back to how they lived before their injury.
The work I do is community-focused, so each day I meet clients of all ages at their homes. We receive referrals from many sources, meaning I see clients who have an ABI from all walks of life.
I don’t have a typical day because my role is so diverse – it certainly makes it interesting! Below, I share with you what a ‘day in the life’ of an ABI Occupational Therapist at VisAbility is like.
8:30am: In the morning I prepare for the day ahead. I want to make sure I have everything I need for my client visits. As I regularly travel across Perth meeting clients, I spend this time reading over any new clients’ referrals, preparing paperwork and gathering resources I need for assessment and treatment.
9:30am: I’m off to meet my first client for the day. He’s a 53-year-old man who has had a stroke, which caused right Homonymous Hemianopia. He cannot see from his right side, and lives with cognitive impairment. Today is his first appointment.
To begin I guide him and his wife through all areas of his life that may have been impacted by his stroke, to get an understanding of how he’s going at the moment. I want to make sure I understand the impact that his visual and cognitive impairments have had on his independence.
We then discuss areas of life that are really important to him. This helps me understand his expectations and hopes for rehabilitation so we can set meaningful and realistic goals.
After the consultation, I work with him to complete some visual screening assessments to further explore the areas of his vision and visual processing that have been impacted. I write an action plan for treatment that we all agree on. We decide to aim for getting him back to activities such as gardening, using his computer and accessing his phone. As I wrap up the appointment, we schedule the next one with the aim of starting our treatment plan.
11:30: On to my next appointment. This time it’s a follow-up with a 51-year-old woman who is recovering from the recent removal of a brain tumour. She has right Homonymous Hemianopia and cannot see the right side of her body and environment. This makes it hard for her to see objects against busy or competing backgrounds. She says it can be particularly difficult when trying to find ingredients or utensils in her cluttered kitchen cupboards, and quickly becomes frustrated and disheartened.
I start our session by scattering items in front of her and help her practice visually locating specific ones. We start with finding 1 or 2 items and increasing this number as she improves.
We work together to organise her utensil drawer, removing any spare or unused items. It’s important to have only the essential ones in the drawer. We then chat about some of the strategies she can use to help find the remaining utensils.
She did really well with all the tasks we worked through this session. The client tells me her confidence is growing, which is fantastic. She’s even keen to start practicing her skills in a cooking task next appointment.
1:00pm: I’ll use the time between home visits to squeeze in lunch. Sometimes I eat on the road and enjoy the fresh air!
1:30pm: I’m onto my third and final appointment for the day. I meet with a 44-year-old man who, after an ABI, has left Homonymous Hemianopia and is unable to see the left side of his body and environment. As a result he also has some memory impairment which makes learning and remembering what we had gone through in previous appointments difficult.
Today we continue where we left off last appointment. I am supporting him as he relearns visual scanning strategies like turning his head, using his cane, taking his time to navigate around his home, and avoiding bumping into obstacles.
We also complete some target practice as he locates numbered targets placed around the room.
I then have a chat with his support worker and we discuss some strategies that they could practice together. My client will now have more opportunity to practice and grow his confidence outside of appointments.
3:30pm: I head back to the office after visiting my clients, and sit down to complete my paperwork for the day. I update clients’ files with the work we did today and start planning for their next appointments.
4:00pm: Before I head home I like to reflect on the kind of day it has been. It is so rewarding to work with people with ABI, and to play a role in empowering them to face their challenges.
I hope you’ve enjoyed some insight into the meaningful work that I do.
If you live with vision impairment, we have a range of services designed to offer support to live independently including Orientation and Mobility (O & M), Assistive Technology and more. Contact us for more information.