Darlene’s Story

Meet Darlene: Ready to retire

Background: Darlene is widowed and in her late 50’s, preparing to retire. She lives in a three-story home with her adult children. She is physically and emotionally exhausted by the demands of her job, the impact that standing long hours has on her knees, as well as intense emotions related to numerous relationship struggles on the job and at home. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress-disorder, hoarding disorder, osteoarthritis, and depression.

Difficulty: Darlene’s physician is concerned about her health issues and her deteriorating social and emotional functioning. She attends work and goes home. She has dropped most of her social activities and contacts. Darlene does not want to go on sick leave and rarely trusts health professionals. Six months ago, however, she took a medical leave and attended a mental health day program for 8 weeks with good results.

Referral: Darlene’s psychiatrist referred her to OT and has requested a full assessment, including a home visit and treatment recommendations. She found out that her insurance plan had coverage for OT and used the Search for an OT search feature to find an OT nearby with an interest in mental health.

How Occupational Therapy assisted Darlene:
● Initial assessment completed by video call.
● Home visit to identify situation at home, assess impact of hoarding on a day-to-day life (amount of disorder and concerns with acquiring, organizing, and letting go of things), and to establish relevant goals.
● Work on emotional awareness and practice communication skills, energy conservation, and pacing. As well, she began to gain awareness and skills to interrupt purchasing things.
● Building trust. Teaching and applying strategies of saying no and setting boundaries or limits in social situations.
● Sessions in home to teach skills of letting go of belongings in the car and home.
● Sessions in the office (or virtual) to continue with assertive communication, asking for help, preparing for the lifestyle change of retirement and making decisions related to her living situation and activities.
● Several mediated family meetings to support her changes.
● Discharge from OT with community and family support in place.

Outcome for Darlene:
● Darlene was seen at intervals over a two-year period.
● She navigated into retirement well.
● Her physical health and ability to pace and structure her day improved remarkably.
● Darlene achieved a considerable sense of success and mastery over the on-going commitment to reducing clutter.
● She discovered that improved assertiveness skills created space for her own needs. She began to discover more joy and to stop “stuffing” her feelings, and began to discover more joy in her life.

- Kevyn T.

Learn how OTs helped her brother after a spinal cord injury.

-Gerard C.

With deep gratitude to Gerard Curley who shared these thoughts about OT before his passing on December 24, 2020.

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Society of Alberta Occupational Therapists