It’s not so much about occupational therapy as it is ‘living therapy.’
If you’re like most people, when you hear the term ‘occupational therapy’ you probably think about work-related rehabilitation. But according to Johnny Rider, it’s more about living a good life doing what you love most.
“Most people go straight to the idea that they already have a job or they’re retired and don’t want one,” Rider said.
Rider and Jerid Matheson are the only two Board-certified, licensed occupational therapists in Mesquite. They both work for Mesa View Physical Therapy.
“Occupations are the term for our everyday activities. We look at your roles, your habits, and your routines to get you ‘back’ to where you were,” Rider said. During the course of treatment, he asks patients “what matters to you, versus what’s the matter with you.”
He explained that the scope of work with patients is very large. Some professionals in the field work with kids and some work with mentally-challenged patients. Rider and Matheson work mainly with older adults through MVPT on an outpatient basis, Mesa View Home Health or with Highland Manor nursing home patients.
After spending a large part of his working years as a sign language interpreter, Rider returned to school and received a Master’s degree in occupational therapy. He did an internship with MVPT and knew that’s where he wanted to work when he graduated. He and his wife have lived in Mesquite for about a year and a half.
Matheson, who lives in Logandale, has been in the field for about 10 years. Both men are licensed in Nevada and Arizona and often times treat home-health care patients in Scenic and Beaver Dam.
“We work with everything from the shoulder down to the tip of the fingers,” Rider said. “We have patients who have lost a finger and help them learn new ways of doing things. We work with people who have arthritis and teach them how to protect their joints and strengthen their surrounding muscles.”
Rider says occupational therapists look for what people do for fun. “Are they a golfer? A gardener? We look at those activities and try to help patients continue with the things they enjoy the most.”
He says the motto of OT is “to ‘live life to the fullest.’ So whatever is important to you, is important to us. Where is your quality of life?”
Rider and Matheson work with stroke patients or others who’ve had knee or hip replacement. “We work on what we call ‘aging in place’ in OT,” Rider said. “We want you to stay in your home as long as possible. Jerid and I are trained in home safety evaluation. We look at what kind of adaptations can keep you in your home longer and safely. We look at fall prevention. We look for hazards in the home and determine adaptations that are simple. We’re considered the health experts on adaptive equipment.”
Rider says OT specialists try to teach people to live with health conditions they have. “If someone has had a hip replacement for example, we’re going to work on them getting better. But in the meantime, we’re going to work with them on their ability to still dress themselves and live in their own home. My trunk is full of adaptive equipment people can use in their home to adapt to their situation. Our home evaluations walk people through their daily routine and see where they need to change things.”
Rider said that he and Matheson show people with arthritis, for example, how to use bigger handles on gardening equipment for instance or use golf clubs with bigger grips so they can continue to do what they love.
“All of our evaluations begin with determining what’s important to the person, what they can’t do that they want to do and then trying to help them reach the point where they can do what they love,” Rider said as he summed up what occupational therapy is really all about.