Illness, injury or simply getting older can make daily activities more challenging. Occupational therapy works to help seniors and individuals with disabilities get back to those everyday activities. We call it occupational therapy because it focuses on occupations– the simple functions that make life fulfilling– from eating and getting dressed to the things we do for fun.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupations are the activities that make up daily life, from cooking and eating to hygiene to recreation. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy is a “goal-directed activity to improve function.” Some of its most important roles are helping people recovering from injury or illness rebuild skills and supporting seniors experiencing physical and cognitive changes. According to AOTA, healthcare providers may recommend occupational therapy to restore and maintain function. It can also prevent problems when we detect early warning signs of functional challenges. From self-care to leisure activities, occupational therapy can make life richer and more meaningful despite physical limitations. Some examples include:
- Relearning to button a shirt
- Help with eating, chewing, and swallowing
- Support in managing tasks in the home.
- Learning to use a walker for the first time
What Services Do Occupational Therapists Provide?
According to AOTA, essential occupational therapy services include:
- Developing customized treatment programs to identify and address each individual’s unique challenges. OT providers help patients and family members set goals and stay accountable.
- Home and workplace evaluations with recommendations for adaptations. Whether it’s adding a grab bar in the shower, adding a ramp to a walkway or moving an elderly parent to a downstairs bedroom, an occupational therapist can help make the home or work environment safer and more functional.
- Recommendations for adaptive equipment including walkers, dishes and eating utensils, shower supports and beyond.
- Occupational therapists guide family members and caregivers on how to support their loved ones as they work to improve function and stay safe.
What Are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists work to help patients stay independent and keep doing things for themselves. Here’s why OT is a must when aging, injury, or illness makes daily activities difficult:
- It helps patients maintain independence, often with adaptive devices and modifications to the home environment.
- It helps keep patients safe in any environment–from a skilled nursing facility to their own home.
- It helps patients stay active and keeps life enjoyable. Patients can continue to engage in activities that bring joy and create community.
- It helps patients set and achieve goals large and small as they work to rebuild or maintain function, boosting satisfaction and reducing frustration and depression.
Who Needs Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy can benefit the following groups:
- Seniors for whom the aging process makes daily tasks more challenging.
- Individuals of all ages with chronic medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
- Patients in rehab following an injury that makes everyday tasks more difficult.
- Patients recovering from a medical event like a stroke or heart attack.
Occupational Therapy in Rehab and Long Term Care
Occupational therapy is available in various settings, from homes and medical offices to skilled nursing facilities. In long-term care and rehab settings, OT is an integral part of programming. Professional therapists help patients with feeding, dressing, hygiene and using adaptive equipment. In a long-term care setting, OT helps make life more productive and meaningful. Occupational therapy in short-term rehab helps patients regain function and prepare to return home after an injury or illness. At Evergreen Health & Rehab, our top-notch team of occupational therapists works with our rehab and long-term care patients, offering a personalized approach for each individual. We identify what patients love to do and where they need support. Then we craft a plan for each client’s needs and challenges. With a high-quality occupational therapy program, we can keep those simple yet meaningful activities of daily life going strong.