Susan Cantor Bachner OT L&L Society Biographical Sketch (4/19)
Susan Cantor Bachner’s career in occupational therapy (1965 – 2017) included roles as a clinician, consultant, author, editor and academician. Influenced by her master’s degree in sociology (1970), Susan’s approach combined an emphasis on the significance of group and cultural influences; a systems approach when analyzing the stakeholders; and a holistic OT approach in consultations and service delivery.
In looking at community-based service opportunities, Susan has always focused on entrepreneurial endeavors that would make use of OT interventions, and sought out practice areas that were not yet popular with colleagues. For instance in 1979, AJOT published her piece “Occupational Therapy and Occupational Medicine – A Merger,” which discussed a working model for occupational therapy intervention in an industrial setting. The model addressed both preventive and problem-solving aspects of practice. Another AJOT publication, in 1981, “Occupational Therapists as Members of Pre-Retirement Resource Teams”, described a process called ‘Tactical Activity Planning [TAP]’ – a process for laymen to analyze their own activity repertoire to assist with pre-retirement preparations.
Susan also welcomed grant opportunities. Her grant projects included home visits to people who lived in single-room occupancy hotels in New York City’s Lower East Side in the late 1960s. The focus was to understand more holistically why these people were repeatedly seeking help at the nearby hospital emergency room. A different grant project, in the ’70s, involved identifying and working with potential foster care providers in order to de-institutionalize adults with developmental disabilities from a large Connecticut institution. Deinstitutionalization was a popular concept/mandate at that time.
In her private practice work, Susan used cooking (along with other activities) as the therapeutic modality with children and adults with developmental disabilities. In 1983, she authored a pictorial cookbook, Picture This – An Illustrated Guide to Complete Dinners, to facilitate her clients’ desires to learn to cook. In 1991, OT Week published “Now You’re Cooking!,” describing Susan’s cooking groups at the “Supper Club,” -- groups of adults with developmental disabilities who gathered in a home-like space within a residential neighborhood. In 1998 and 2004, Susan was co-editor for the AOTA book, “Adults with Developmental Disabilities- Current Approaches in Occupational Therapy”.
After relocating from the Northeast to Kentucky in the mid-1990’s, Susan found a new community-based need that would benefit from an OT perspective: home modifications. After completing multiple certifications in environmental access, including AOTA’s Specialty Certification in Environmental Modifications (SCEM), in 2000 she started her company, Susan Bachner Consulting, LLC. The business provided evaluations and consultation services for home modifications and products to promote safety, comfort, and accessibility for people experiencing difficulty with their activities of daily living.
Susan also published and lectured extensively on Universal Design. She authored chapters and articles for AOTA’s “OT Practice” as well for several of their Special Interest Section Quarterly papers. An example of articles written for other publishers included a column on Universal Design from 2000-2004 for the Chevy Chaser, a newspaper in Lexington, KY. In magazines such as Rehab Management and ASID’s ICON, she shared case studies from her practice to demonstrate positive outcomes when Occupational Therapists were utilized as team members for home adaptation projects. In 2003, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) honored Susan as a finalist in the category of “New Woman Business Owner of the Year.” The following year the Kentucky Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized her as a Home Based Business Advocate of the Year.
Over the years, Susan’s work was recognized by national and local occupational therapy organizations. Some examples include a Certificate of Appreciation for her term as President of Connota from 1984-86; a FAOTA awarded in 1987, and the Kentucky OT Association’s award of Outstanding Occupational Therapist of 2002-2003. She also received honors from other groups, including Dorland Health’s Occupational Therapist 2011 award, and first prize in the National Association of Home Builders’ competition in the “Home for Life Award-Major Space” category. This NAHB entry described a universally designed project completed with and on behalf of a couple wanting to “age-in-place.”
Susan retired in 2017. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband and near to other family members. Among other things, she is currently involved with community advocacy efforts on behalf of middle-income seniors who seek housing options they can afford. This rapidly growing population, referred to as the “Forgotten Middle,” earns too much money to be eligible for subsidized housing but not enough to afford assisted living. Their complex needs for housing and healthcare are a rapidly growing societal problem seen locally and nationally. Susan works with an inspiring group, representative of a variety of career backgrounds, to create viable options in Lexington.