Occupational therapists (OTs) are skilled professionals trained to help their clients overcome challenges faced when pursuing activities of daily living (ADL). An OT’s clients may include people recovering from surgery or injury, people with disabilities, elderly people and others. In this article we discuss the benefits of occupational therapy for older adults. Read on to learn more.
What Does An Occupational Therapist Do?
Occupational therapists work with patients both in clinic and in their home, work and community settings to help facilitate easy of ADL.
A typical interaction with an OT would include:
OTs who work with elderly patients strive to help them enjoy more active and independent lives. A good OT can assess the client’s environment and abilities and make solid recommendations to improve and enrich the person’s daily life.
Why Might Elderly People Need Occupational Therapy?
As we age, we often find regular, everyday ADL challenging. Bathing, walking, eating, rising from a chair or bed and many other activities that were once so easy can become very difficult, indeed. A good OT can help elderly clients by assessing strengths and needs and providing therapy and exercise to help improve dexterity, strength, fine motor skills and range of motion (ROM) as needed.
A good OT can also assess an elderly client’s home or work situation and make recommendations for assistive and adaptive equipment to help make tasks possible or easier.
An OT also makes recommendations that make the home or work setting safer. This helps prevent future injuries, which can lead to more challenges.
Elderly people are very often badly injured by falling. In fact, injuries from falls make up the greatest number of injuries that send elderly folks to the emergency room.
A good OT can help an elderly patient prevent falls by providing a program of strengthening and balance building exercise and by simply promoting awareness of fall prevention. This may take the form of making safety recommendations for home and/or work settings.
For example, your OT may recommend modifications such as:
When modifications are added to the home, the OT will make sure that the elderly patient knows how to use them and is able to.
Occupational Therapists Can Help With Visual Impairment Barriers
Vision is another important consideration for an OT. Older folks may have vision loss that causes problems with pattern detection, perception and visual awareness. An OT can evaluate this situation and make recommendations to help reduce visual confusion and barriers at home and at work.
These might include:
These sorts of inexpensive, common sense modifications can make it a lot easier for a senior with visual impairment to navigate.
A Good OT Can Address Problems Brought on By Confusion
Occupational therapy is also concerned with mental fitness. In addition to evaluating an elderly patient’s physical abilities and challenges, an OT will evaluate cognitive ability and create care plans as needed to deal with problems such as memory loss and dementia.
A good OT may recommend enrichment activities to help keep a patient’s brain active and improve quality of life.
Some enrichment activities include:
For patients who become confused due to dementia, an OT can make recommendations for altering the environment to make it less confusing. This may involve use of signs, color block flooring and other techniques that help the person navigate in new (or once familiar) settings.
Occupational Therapy Boosts Emotional Health
Enrichment activities, memory restoration and changes that make the environment safer and less confusing can help elderly clients maintain a happier outlook. Occupational therapy provides mental and physical stimulation and challenge. This goes far to prevent a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
A Skilled OT Provides Support For The Client & Carers
Another benefit of both physical and mental engagement with an OT is the sense of having support. Very often older people are alone due to the loss of friends, partners and family members as they age. A good OT can provide a sense of friendship and can help an elderly patient work through the natural transitions of aging.
Another important service provided by an OT is training for family members and caregivers. Dealing with an elderly person with dementia can be quite challenging and baffling. An OT can help caregivers and members of the family understand how to respond to problems such as unpredictable changes in personality or seemingly inexplicable confusion.
Just as an OT can provide an elderly client with a sense of friendship and support, he or she is also there for the family members and caregivers. An OT provides a listening ear and can offer sound, practical advice and solutions for problems that may seem unprecedented to the family member or caregiver yet may be quite familiar to the OT.
An OT will encourage family members and caregivers to remember to take care of themselves, eat well, exercise, rest enough and pursue outside interests.
The OT will keep caregivers and family members in the loop regarding the client’s progress as well as any new information and findings pertinent to that person’s condition and situation.