Occupational Therapy: Helping People Live Safely At Home

Teri Rothenberger, OTR/L became a licensed Occupational Therapist (OT) because she had an interest in helping people. A high school guidance counselor came up with Occupational Therapy as a possible career that fit Teri’s interests and she now boasts 30+ yrs experience. Teri joined the Health Calls team 6 years ago. As an OT, Teri’s specialties include helping people improve their strength and endurance to be safely independent with the daily activities we take for granted every day like showering, dressing, cooking, and doing laundry.


Teri says it feels great when patients have a “lightbulb moment”, that magic moment when she provides advice that is going to make a difference in the patient’s life. Working in home health, Teri realizes that she is always a guest in the patient’s home.

“I can make recommendations, but ultimately it’s their decision if they follow the advice. I knows it’s not a reflection on how good or effective I am as a healthcare provider if the family doesn’t use my suggestions.”

Teri finds that in many homes she visits, people already have safety and adaptive equipment like shower seats and 3in1 over the commode seats. She always checks the height of all these pieces of equipment because most times they are positioned on the lowest height. When Teri adjusts the height to the proper setting for the patient’s height, families wonder why no one else had thought of this. Families also will often report 3in1’s over the toilet seats don’t have the splash guard in place or say it doesn’t fit over the toilet. With some adjustments, such as removal of the back and lid, it usually fits.
Like the tools that she carries to make the appropriate equipment adjustments, Teri has expert tricks up her sleeves. When someone is discharged from a rehab facility to home, it’s difficult for therapists to know exact sizes of bathrooms and shower areas before the patient goes home. At rehab they send home a tub bench (goes inside and outside the tub), but there isn’t enough area to safely place the bench and therefore families often end up not using it. This also happens when showers have built in seats which make it difficult to find room to place an additional seat in the tub. Teri says one issue patients often have with the benches is where to go with the shower curtain so that water is not all over the floor. There is a simple solution, but most people just put lots of towels on the floor. When she shows them her trick for safe bench use to bathe safely, they are very happy.

Teri shared that one of her patients was having difficulty with his current bathroom with a regular tub. Transfers in and out of the tub onto a tub bench required the help of 2 people. The patient and family decided that since the disability was permanent, a full renovation would make the routine safer and easier. Teri made recommendations, met with the contractor and determined the best renovation for his disability. He ended up with a bathroom in a different part of the home. The new bathroom had a wheelchair height toilet with pull down grab bars, a wheel-in shower with hand held shower head and grab bars all around the shower, and wheelchair accessible sink.

In this YouTube video, Teri shows the proper placement and use of grab bars in a shower.

Teri is truly a rehabilitation expert but her work in her profession is only one part of a very full life. Teri has been a widow for 3 yrs and has 2 sons, a daughter-in-law, and a future daughter-in-law (son #2 will be married in 2018). Teri is very excited for her first grandchild to arrive in a few short weeks. Teri is very active with the music program at her church where she sings in the choir and plays the keyboard and organ. Teri also boasts having many other “adopted” kids through the relationships she has forged working with the youth of her church.

Teri is a person of quiet strength and a true asset to the Health Calls team. She serves many well in her professional and personal life with her desire to help and improve quality of living.

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