A Ghanaian resident in the United Kingdom told me a story about a fellow Ghanaian who lives in the UK and has a condition called Fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
This Lady who has Fibromyalgia also has two lovely children, one of them lives with cerebral palsy, for the purposes of this article let’s call the lady with Fibromyalgia Akosua.
Akosua usually has very difficult mornings, she finds it difficult getting up from bed to prepare the children for school because of the bodily pains associated with her condition.
Akosua thus approached her city’s local authorities with her issue which was immediately referred to the Department of Social welfare for urgent attention.
What the social welfare department in the United Kingdom did for this lady was to assign an occupational therapist to her home, who helps and support her child with cerebral palsy to function effectively.
The occupational therapist reports to Akosua’s home every morning at 6AM, helps baths the child with cerebral palsy, feed, toilet trains and prepares her for school.
The school bus comes in to pick Akosua’s daughter, usually there is an attendant on the bus who makes sure that Akosua’s daughter is safe and arrives at school safely.
At school, there is a school occupational therapist who also supports Akosua’s daughter with feeding and other daily living skills.
By the time, the young girl is dropped off back home, Akosua has gained some strengthen to prepare meals and other things that the family will need.
That is how Akosua’s family has been living in the UK for a long time now.
In Ghana, is it a different story, a mother of a child with cerebral palsy or any disability for that matter is her own therapist.
Therapy services are paid for by the family or primary caregiver raising the child with disability, no money, no service, no money no health.
Our health care system in Ghana prioritizes the biomedical approach which focuses on giving medication and not the rehabilitative one, it seems nobody pays attention to rehabilitation services in Ghana.
If a family has money, and they can afford, therapists are willing to come home and work with their child or person with disability who needs therapy services, if you do not have money, you are on your own, it is almost like the survival of the fittest.
At the second Occupational Therapy Association of Ghana (OTAG) scientific conference, most of the occupational therapists working in Ghana bemoaned that it seems Ghana does not understand and prioritize rehabilitation as a major healthcare option.
Rehabilitation services, helps a person regain physical, mental, and/or cognitive (thinking and learning) abilities that have been lost or impaired as a result of disease, injury, or treatment.
Rehabilitation services help people return to daily life and live in a normal or near-normal way. These services may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, cognitive therapy, and mental health rehabilitation services.
Ms Joana Nana Serwaa Akrofi, an occupational therapist, who made a presentation on the topic: Occupational Therapy in early intervention: A descriptive study, said for early intervention services which is usually between the ages of 0 and 3, occupational therapy practitioners promote function and engagements of infants and toddlers and their families in everyday routines.
“Practitioners enhance a family’s capacity to care for their child and promote his or her development and participation in natural environments where the child and family live, work and play,” Ms Akrofi said.
However in Ghana, occupational therapists cannot be effective in that area because parents always have to carry their children to the hospital for occupational therapy services, having occupational therapy at home means parting with substantial amount of money which only the rich can afford.
Ms Akrofi said for early intervention practices, occupational therapy centres on the family and the practitioner is supposed to be there to support the family, Occupational therapists must offer a holistic service that encompasses activities of daily living, rest and sleep, play, education and social participation.
What Ms Akrofi describes belongs to the future and not present in Ghana, however, being a mother of a child with cerebral palsy, myself, I believe that the presence of an occupational therapist in my home will so much enhance not just the life of my daughter with cerebral palsy but my own life and the life of my entire family members.
As Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark occupational therapy day on the 27th October, I want to remind the government of Ghana, that allied health services which includes occupational therapy should not be an option, it should be the real deal because I think that everybody needs an occupational therapist.