Occupational Therapy (a.k.a. OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”.
*We use these occupations as both the intervention and outcome of therapy.
Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on developing, recovering, or maintaining the daily living and working skills of people with physical, mental, or cognitive impairments.
Occupational therapists work with elderly patients and teach them exercise and rehabilitation techniques that make completing daily tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing, much easier. Occupational therapists help patients improve their fine and basic motor skills, strength, dexterity, and their range of motion.
Do you have a friend or relative who is struggling to complete daily tasks on their own? Maybe you’ve tried to help them, but your strategies just don’t seem to be effective?
One of the toughest parts of the ageing process is losing the ability to do things that once were incredibly simple. When people lose the ability to complete everyday tasks, they tend to feel confused, frustrated, and sometimes even embarrassed.
Luckily, your friend does not have to feel this way. There are ways you can help your elderly parent gain more control over their life.
What we are referring to is occupational therapy. By enrolling your parent in an occupational therapy program, they’ll be given the opportunity to gain some of their independence back.
Occupational therapy is a process that involves helping people at all stages of life (from toddlers to elderly) develop, maintain, or recover the skills they need to daily activities (aka occupations) that are meaningful and necessary.
A big part of an occupational therapist’s job is to help their patients overcome the struggles of everyday life. For many elderly people, partaking in normal daily activities (such as walking, eating, etc) can be a huge, exhausting task. Oftentimes, they will become frustrated and give up halfway.
And, when they can’t perform basic daily tasks, they’re also often less inclined to attempt to participate in other aspects of life, such as social gatherings, family outings, and hobbies. This can quickly lead to feelings of depression and isolation.
Occupational therapists work with elderly patients and teach them exercise and rehabilitation techniques that make completing daily tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing, much easier.
Occupational therapists help patients improve their fine and basic motor skills, strength, dexterity, and their range of motion. Even small improvements in these areas can make all the difference when it comes to completing an everyday task.
The thought of falling without anyone around to help is very scary.
Luckily, you can put your mind at ease by enrolling yourself, friend or relative in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists are well aware of the prevalence of falls among elderly patients.
Therefore, therapists teach their patients methods that can prevent falls.
When people think about occupational therapy, they mostly think about the physical benefits it provides. However, occupational therapy provides a number of mental benefits as well.
When occupational therapists first meet with their patients, they will evaluate their cognitive abilities as well as their physical abilities.
All elderly people suffer from some degree of memory loss. Here are some of the different ways occupational therapists help elderly patients regain their memory skills:
These are just a few examples of ways an occupational therapist can help improve a patient’s memory and make coping with memory loss easier.
Many elderly people live in homes that are simply not suitable for them anymore.
Things like stairs, slippery floors, and bathtubs and showers can all pose a risk to elderly people.
An occupational therapist will look at the layout of your home and make recommendations for modifying it. These modifications will make your home safer and promote independent living. Modifications may include:
The occupational therapist will also teach you how to use all of these devices and modifications. For example, they will teach you the appropriate way to enter a shower with the use of handrails.
While fixing vision impairment when you’re younger is often as simple as a trip to the eye doctor for glasses or contacts, with elderly patients, it is not so simple. Elderly patients who suffer from vision loss or eye diseases also tend to struggle with performing everyday activities. This, in turn, puts them at greater risk for mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety.
Luckily, occupational therapists can help elderly patients who struggle with vision loss.
Occupational therapists conduct activities with elderly patients that help improve perceptual vision, pattern detection, and overall visual awareness.
Occupational therapists will also commonly suggest changes in the home or workplace to make sure their vision loss does not get in the way of everyday life.
For example, an occupational therapist may suggest:
As you can see, many of these modifications are relatively simple and hardly cost anything. Yet, they can make all the difference for an elderly person who struggles with vision loss.
While we go through many transitions throughout our life, a majority of the tough ones happen when we are older.
Elderly people have to go through tough transitions like retirement, widowhood, and relocation. Many elderly people also have to say goodbye to a large number of friends who pass before they do.
All of these transitions can be tough to deal with. And, these transitions can make them feel particularly alone.
Occupational therapists can help elderly parents deal with these big life transitions by educating them on healthy coping skills.
Being a caregiver is one of the hardest jobs around. Occupational therapists are there to serve as an outlet and a resource for their needs as well.
An occupational therapist will:
Occupational therapists can help patients with dementia live a better life. If your elderly parent, partner or friend suffers from dementia, an OT can provide them with recommendations that will make life a little easier.
For example, they may suggest eating certain foods with pleasing textures in case eating becomes difficult. Or, they may suggest listening to certain types of soothing music or stretching exercises to help eliminate pain.
Last but not least, occupational therapists serve as trusted confidants to your elderly parent.
Elderly people feel embarrassed about not being able to do the things they once could. And, even though you are their child partner or friend, they still may not feel comfortable talking to you about the problems that come with old age.
Oftentimes, they think you will not understand, or they simply don’t want to burden you with their concerns.
An occupational therapist is someone you can talk to about your concerns. Occupational therapists are trained professionals who have worked with many elderly patients.
So, they will know how to talk to your parent in a way that makes them feel better, but not belittled.
Sometimes, just having someone to talk to that isn’t a family member can make all the difference in the life of an elderly person.
Occupational therapists promote engagement and quality of life for their clients by evaluating their remaining abilities and then utilising those strengths to facilitate participation in daily occupations.
OTs are uniquely qualified to analyse tasks and determine where a person is experiencing challenges and where/ how the client will benefit from support.
Individual care is provided through assistive device recommendations and sourcing, pre- and postoperative support/return to home, level of independence regarding ADL evaluations, family support meetings, and physical rehabilitation.
Group therapy includes wheelchair mobility groups, art and craft groups, cognitive stimulation groups, gardening groups, pet therapy, and sensory stimulation groups.
We evaluate and develop individual care plans for each client to maintain skills for as long as possible, including ensuring the environment is dementia friendly and through reminiscence therapy.
For groups, we make use of reminiscence groups, music groups, art and craft groups, pet therapy, gardening groups, cognitive stimulation groups, and family support groups.
During later stages of dementia, therapeutic goals are to preserve the client’s dignity, ensure their physical comfort and maintain quality of life.
Selected activities are predominantly sensory in nature and sessions are shorter and spread out throughout the day, making this the ideal setting to train family members and care givers in different sensory stimulation techniques.
Activities may include hand massage, sensory bean bags, scent stimulation, photo albums, pet therapy, finer grooming (hair brushing, applying makeup) using hand over hand technique and going for walks in the sensory garden.