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Occupational Therapist Transfers Skills Between Continents

April is National Occupational Therapy Month which means there are 30 full days to pay homage to the professionals who work hard to keep people independent by finding ways to manage everyday tasks that have become difficult. Although all the Occupational Therapists who work for Assisted Care deserve recognition and thanks for their work, Shelley Coe-Tomlinson may be the only one who can match each of April’s 30 days with a year of experience totaling 30 years of using her Occupational Therapy (OT) skills.

These days, it’s rare to find such dedication to one career; Shelley is fortunate to have found a profession she is passionate about, especially considering she was just 16 when she applied to do OT. Born in New Zealand, Shelley was able to get ahead with her high school studies because of a flexible school system, but even Shelley was surprised to be accepted by the Central Institute for Technology in New Zealand to study OT at such a young age. She considered OT or social work because, she always wanted to work with people. Her ‘wild card’ career to fall back on was journalism! She had also worked as a CNA during her summer breaks and that had convinced her she did not want to go into nursing. She felt OT offered a greater scope for helping people gain independence while retaining their dignity.

Shelley graduated in 1988 and worked in community mental health for five years before coming to the United States to work as a traveling therapist. Not many people can claim to have a career that spans two continents, but Shelley applied her skills to a variety of different positions including working for six years as an area director in a skilled nursing and pediatric facility.

Shortly after coming to the US, Shelley met her husband, a former chef who was born in Southport and found his true vocation as a church preacher. They started a family and moved to New Zealand where they established a community-based Christian ministry that provided a food bank, care beds, a toy library, after-school care and meals on wheels to low-income families. Shelley applied her pediatric OT skills to various aspects of the ministry and helped grow the after-school program increasing the number of children serviced from 10 to 80. She was tasked with creating a balance of activities for children with a wide range of abilities and succeeded in getting the program accredited with the government.

Thirteen years later, a change of family circumstances brought the couple and their five children back to Southport and Shelley saw a job posted for a home health OT with AssistedCare. She liked the idea of being independent but also being part of a team. She said, “I see barriers in the home environment and use a functional approach to help keep people independent.” She enjoys working with clients with dementia and likes being involved with the whole family, educating them on how to keep their loved ones engaged. She added, “Occupational therapists use a holistic approach to treat people emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”

Teamwork is at the heart of the AssistedCare family. Shelley believes the company has good values and genuinely cares about the patients. During National Occupational Therapy Month, the management at AssistedCare wants its OTs to know that they are truly appreciated. AssistedCare wants to empower people needing home health care to ask for a physician’s order for AssistedCare. We are Medicare certified and we want to help you or your loved one work toward independence. The goal of our organization is to improve health, mobility, and quality of life.

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