SCI - Therapeutic Services - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


SCI - Therapeutic Services

SCI Therapy Staff

Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy helps persons with disabilities optimize their function in performing daily living skills. Therapists combine traditional therapeutic activities and exercises along with state-of-the-art equipment to provide services that are tailored to the needs of the individual. Evaluation and training begins with persons undergoing initial rehabilitation and continues throughout the lifetime. Occupational Therapy encompasses the following areas:

  • Daily living skills. Evaluation and training in dressing, grooming, feeding, bathing, wheelchair mobility, transfers, and bed mobility are provided.
  • Adaptive equipment and assistive technology. Based on their medical and individual needs, persons are evaluated and trained in using state-of-the art power and manual wheelchairs, specialty cushions, environmental control units, electric beds, bathroom equipment, mechanical lifts, and other adaptive aids.
  • Pressurized mapping studies are available for challenging seating issues to determine areas prone to high pressure and skin breakdown. It can also be effective in determining the appropriateness of a seating system or cushion.
  • Durable medical equipment is currently issued directly through the VA Prosthetics Service for most patients. Issuing of equipment is based on the medical and individual needs of a person in accordance with guidelines set by the VA. In general, persons do not have to wait for approval from insurance companies before they can receive equipment.
  • Upper extremity: evaluation and treatment services include motor coordination, strengthening, and custom splint fabrication. In addition, occupational therapists work closely with the hand surgeons in the Upper Extremity Clinic and assist with the evaluation and training following surgical procedures such as tendon transfers and rotator cuff repair.
  • Home Evaluations within a specified area. Occupational therapists make recommendations for home modifications, such as ramps, doorways, and methods to reduce risks for falls. They evaluate and measure areas of the home (e.g., bathroom) to ensure that appropriate adaptive equipment is recommended.
  • Computer Access Technology Lab. Occupational therapy evaluates and provides training for computer access with the latest computer software, hardware, and assistive devices, including speech recognition software and head-based infrared tracking devices.

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Physical Therapist with Patient  Physical Therapy
What are Physical Therapists?
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who apply evidence-based research and established techniques to examine, evaluate, diagnose and treat various conditions and injuries. Physical therapists can collaborate and practice with other healthcare professionals to maximize the patient's function and mobility. Working closely with the patient, physical therapists develop a personalized rehabilitation and wellness program to maximize independence, reduce pain, restore mobility, and prevent disability.

What is VA Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy?
Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy at the VA Palo Alto includes evaluation and treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders in an inpatient rehabilitation setting. The focus of inpatient Physical Therapy is to assist patients with improving physical mobility, strength, balance and endurance to improve quality of life. Therapists, with focused expertise in this field, use state-of-the-art equipment to help patients improve or restore mobility and progress toward patient goals. Physical therapists work closely with their patients to evaluate their condition to develop an individualized rehabilitation plan. Therapists also assist patients and family with their transition from inpatient rehabilitation to the home and community environment. VA Spinal Cord Physical Therapists start with initial rehabilitation that continues through a person's lifetime with annual check-ups, outpatient availability and as needed services.

Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy is ...

  • Functional mobility
  • Wheelchair skills
  • Functional electrical stimulation
  • Wound care
  • Gait training (ambulation)
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Manual therapy
  • Promotion of health wellness and fitness
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Home evaluations within a specified area
  • Personal care assistant training
  • Community reintegration
  • Family integration
  • SCI education
  • Referral to Outpatient Physical Therapy if appropriate

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Recreation Therapy
Recreation Therapy services are based on a continuum of care that focuses on the rehabilitative, educational and recreation participation needs and interests of the individual adult Veteran and active duty service member population. The recreation therapists utilize recreation as a treatment modality to increase function and promote independence in the community.

Core SCI Recreation Therapy Programs
Veterans are introduced and can participate in adapted sports programs and recreation technology and equipment such as the Wii Sport, adapted fishing, wheelchair sport clinics (lacrosse, power soccer, quad rugby and basketball), adapted hand cycling and aquatics. Veterans are provided with an opportunity for not only physical, but also psychological rehabilitation and personal readjustment through an outlet which is competitive and also recreational.

Community reintegration programs offer Veterans an opportunity for functional skill development via facilitating community mobility and accessibility training, safety acquisition skills, decision making and establishing peer support. Off-station outings are used to help SCI Veterans feel more comfortable in navigating in their community whether it is going to a baseball game, out to a restaurant or movie, or traveling to one of the National Rehabilitation Events such as the Winter Sports Clinic or the Summer Wheelchair Games.

Leisure education and coaching are provided to assist Veterans and their family in acquiring leisure skills and leisure planning as well as knowledge of accessible community recreation resources to enhance independence and engagement in the community upon discharge.

For those SCI Veterans who are bed bound during their admission, bedside recreation programs are provided to meet their needs, i.e., board games, portable DVD players, laptop computers and WiFi Internet, craft kits and music.

Finally, recreation therapy provides programs and events to promote social interaction in group settings, both at the medical center and in the community. Veterans are offered special holiday events, BBQs, lunch and dinner outings, and a weekly Wednesday evening social program sponsored by a Veteran Service Organization.

Benefits of Recreation Therapy

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased understanding and use of community resources
  • Increased physical well-being (weight management, hypertension, diabetes)
  • Decreased social isolation
  • Improved social skills
  • Development of positive coping strategies to manage unwanted behaviors
  • Development of new leisure skills
  • Increased independence in leisure functioning
  • Enriched spiritual development
  • Enhanced creative expression
  • Enhanced body image following a spinal cord injury

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