Innovation in Upper Limb Rehabilitation
As an experienced occupational therapist, Vicki Abraham wanted to investigate constraint-induced movement therapy as a way to help people who have an acquired brain injury. Through the GAF Fellowship at ISSI, in 2013 Vicki travelled to the USA, Germany, Austria and Israel to learn more about this therapy as well as robotic/computer assistive technologies.
As a teenager, Vicki Abraham experienced an illness that affected her entire lifestyle. After being told by a number of medical professionals that she should not return to school and spend the rest of her life on the couch, Vicki was determined to succeed and prove them wrong. Vicki's experience with illness made her extremely passionate to help others and ensure that they too were able to continue to live their life to their fullest potential.
After studying to become an occupational therapist (OT), Vicki worked within the hospital setting that provided her with the opportunity to meet a variety of people and learn how the health system worked in Australia. During this time she saw a huge need for additional community based occupational therapy support with people living in their home environments often facing minimum six months wait lists for OT services. With this in mind she began working as a private occupational therapist treating people within their home environments, ensuring that they did not have a lengthy wait. As this need increased over time so did the type and level of service provided.
Over time, Vicki moved from being a sole practitioner to running a comprehensive occupational therapy practice providing specialised therapy services that address each individual’s needs. The OTs visit each client in their own home environment and provide holistic assessment, client goal directed therapy and assistance/advocacy to ensure clients have essential supports in place to maximise independence and quality of life.
Vicki's vision has always been to continually evaluate community needs and to provide timely and evidence-based OT services. Her latest project has been to develop an evidence-based clinic specialising in Neurological Rehabilitation for Upper Limb Retraining so that clients who are unable to use, or have limited use of their arm have the opportunity to regain movement in order to incorporate this arm into their daily living activities. This enhances their independence, well-being and quality of life.
The GAF Fellowship enabled Vicki to undertake further training in constraint-induced movement therapy, in particular robotic/computer assistive technologies. It had become clear to Vicki how beneficial such technology can be to individuals with reduced upper limb function. The evidence around constraint-induced therapy also shows how effective this treatment is to increase function in an affected arm. Although there is a need for further research to develop clinical recommendations and guidelines in order to achieve optimum outcomes in different acquired brain injury populations, the research clearly demonstrates the benefit of these therapies.