While disability is not illness, people with disabilities are no more exempt from dealing with medical professionals than any other person. Sometimes, though, people with disabilities become their condition. I thought it might be interesting to learn how a medical professional might approach a person with a disability in a treatment setting.
The very mention of the word therapist has people looking at you strangely – they think that if you’re seeing one, there’s something very wrong with you. But therapists help lots of people and bring about significant positive changes in their lives. An RT can make a whole lot of difference in the way people with mental and/or physical disabilities see life and live it, just by the way they interact with their patients. To provide patients with optimum benefits, an RT must:
- Focus on the patient, not the disability: A good RT is not necessarily one who is naturally skilled at his job but one who can see beyond the disability at the person it has affected and is affecting on a continuous basis. He or she must be able to separate the person from the disability and focus on their needs rather than on how the disability is reflected in their life.
- Be good at their job: A therapist must know his craft and be good at what he does; otherwise he is of no use to the patient. He must be skilled in providing the right kind of treatment, one that is tailored to the patient and that suits his needs, not a general or broad routine that is developed as a matter of fact for every patient, no matter how little or how much their disability is.
- Have the right amount of compassion: Most people with disabilities resent pity and too much compassion. They are fiercely independent and do not take kindly to people patronizing them because of their disability. But they will accept genuine offers of help if they are given with the right amount of compassion. And that is exactly what an RT must be able to do when interacting with a patient with significant physical or mental disabilities.
- Know how to deal with tantrums: An RT must be very patient, especially when dealing with patients who are mentally ill. They often have no idea that you’re trying to help them and are prone to violent behavior at times. The therapist must be ready and able to deal with abrupt changes in behavior. With someone who is only physically disabled, the RT must know how to deal with temper tantrums that come about because of the patient’s frustrations at not being able to do things like normal people. The key to all this is an infinite amount of patience, which is really no different than the attitude a RT must use in dealing with any person seeking care.
- Know how to coax and push: Physical therapy is difficult and even painful at times. The therapist must know when to coax, cajole and even push the patient to go through the routines even though they are reluctant or unwilling to do so. He or she must be able to get a patient to do what they’re supposed to do, because without the therapy, there is no hope of improving the quality of their lives.