VNA Celebrates Occupational Therapists

By Steven Trezza Home
VNA Health Group

VNA Celebrates Occupational Therapists


VNA Health Group covers an expansive number of patients with different conditions, some of whom find themselves having a hard time performing daily tasks such as bathing, grooming or feeding (among other tasks.) Occupational Therapy encourages rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life. Patients who are experiencing trouble accomplishing these tasks may need the assistance of an Occupational Therapist (OT) to remain independent at home.


In observance of National Occupational Therapy Month, we sat down with Occupational Therapists from across the VNA to find out what being an OT means to them and how it impacts the patients they touch every day.


Addressing the Individual Needs of Each Patient


Each of VNA’s Occupational Therapy patients has their own goals that they are trying to accomplish. OTs must assess not only the patient, but also their environment they live in, and spot any risk factors that may be present during the patient’s recovery.


“We look at each person holistically and address their meaningful occupations of everything they do from getting up in the am to when they go to bed at night,” said Holly Hardaway, OTR, CALA, CAPS of Robert Wood Johnson Visiting Nurses. “We’re experts in helping with everything they do. Bathing, feeding, grooming etc. and doing these things independently is what keeps them healthy and hopefully at home.”


Occupational Therapists must also take note of the physical and mental state of the patient they are treating.


“There are a lot of aspects that go on during daily living,” said Karen Reiner, OTR. “Can they see? Can they touch and pick things up? You really have to take notice in the person’s ability. There’s a lot of adaptable equipment in the home that they might need to change.”


Part of an OT’s job is to identify what a person might need to help them remain independent. Sometimes that includes moving around furniture, providing easy access for everyday items or installing supports like railings or grab bars.


OT Patients Recover Quicker at Home


More and more OT patients are opting to receive therapy at home rather than from a skilled facility. Recovering at home not only keeps the patient more comfortable, but also reduces the risk of injury and infection.


“The sooner we can get them in the home is not only medically better for them but also emotionally because there is ‘no place like home,’” said Patricia Sackman, BSOT, MAOT. “It also helps financially. It’s expensive to not be home!”


For patients to be in their own environment helps them adapt to the physical activities they need to perform each day. The bathtub, bed or toilet within a facility are different from what they are used to at home, which can cause some hurdles in their road to recovery. After the OT visit, our therapists want to be sure that they can safely leave the patients on their own.


“This morning I’ve already worked with 2 people, this woman was by herself and we worked on showers and after care, because when I finish she will be on her own,” said Jo Ann Lewis, BSOT. “My 2nd patient was afraid because she already had 2 falls in the past 3 weeks. She’s afraid of even getting into the tub so I need to make sure she knows what to do and how to do it safely.”


Occupational Therapists provide vital care in a person’s ability to remain independent, and we are blessed to have such a wonderful staff. As we celebrate Occupational Therapy month, join us to thank all of our wonderful OTs for everything that they do. Read more about the OTs we talked with in the bios below:


Meet our Occupational Therapists


Holly Hardaway, OTR, CALA, CAPS

Robert Wood Johnson Visiting Nurses

Holly Hardaway has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, 3 of which have been with VNA Health Group. Holly got into Occupational Therapy because she wanted to use her creativity to help people live functional, independent lives.


When asked what her proudest moment as an OT was, Holly said:


“There’s been a lot, but I can tell you one recently that was particularly moving. The individual I was treating had a stroke and has visual perceptual deficits, cognitive deficits and weakness in his arm. His meaningful occupation was an organist, playing the organ and piano. I was able to help him get positioned at the piano at the house and he was able to play a song for his wife. They didn’t think he would be able to do this, but I knew he would be able to because the whole crux of this is to use a meaningful activity to help them recover. He played the piano and it was touching, he and his wife both started crying.”




Jo Ann Lewis, BSOT

Barnabas Health Home Care

Jo Ann has been an Occupational Therapist for 43 years and started with VNA back in 1980. In 7th grade Jo Ann wanted to become a physical therapist, it wasn’t until 10th grade that a friend had recommended Occupational Therapy to Jo Ann because it was more personal and thought it would lend itself more to her personality. Jo Ann pursued the profession and found out it was perfect for her!


When asked what her proudest moment as an OT was, Jo Ann said:


“One of my patient’s wives called me and said “Jo I want you to know, we didn’t forget about you. We want to take you to lunch to because we appreciate what you have done for us.” I told them it wasn’t necessary but they were very persistent. I have a lot of patients who are similar. I have always appreciated the VNA for what they stand for and what they do and how the organization tries to make a positive difference in people’s lives. It’s part of their mission even years later.”



Patricia Sackman, BSOT, MAOT

VNA of Central Jersey

Patricia Sackman has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, 21 of which have been with VNA Health Group. When Patricia was 17 her grandfather had a massive stroke and she would take him to the hospital for his rehab. It was around this time that Patricia knew she wanted to do something related to rehab. Occupational Therapy wasn’t very well known at the time and when Patricia discovered it, she immediately wanted to pursue it.


When asked what her proudest moment as an OT was, Patricia said:


“There are many of those moments. I don’t always look for the big ones. Sometimes the little ones mean a lot to the patients. Whether it is getting that piece of equipment or getting that wheelchair, it means so much to someone because now they can get out in the community. These are the moments that I can take a breath of relief and say ‘finally they have that change they need.’”



Karen Reiner, OTR

VNA of Englewood

Karen has been an Occupational Therapist for 34 years, 26 of which have been with VNA of Englewood. Karen started with Englewood Home Health and then switched over after the joint venture. Karen was intrigued by the field of medicine and liked the idea of helping people become more independent. She knew Occupational Therapy was something you could do while being a mother and a daughter, giving her the ability to take care of her kids and elderly parents when they needed her.


When asked what her proudest moment as an OT was, Karen said:


“When somebody tells me that they are able to do a lot more for themselves then before, and at the end they say they can do that by themselves now. Sometimes I’ll bump into patients when they’re out and about and doing things on their own. They’ll stop me and thank me for all the work that I did with them.”


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