How Occupational Therapy Helps You Maintain Independence
If there was a path toward maintaining or even regaining your independence, would you take it? That’s what occupational therapists help people do, all day every day, and in many cases, the results are life-changing.
What is occupational therapy?
You may be familiar with physical therapy, which helps you regain use of your body after surgery, an injury, or another situation that affects the way you move. Occupational therapy services are more focused on outcomes than movement. While physical therapy tends to be focused primarily on rehabilitative exercise, stretching, and physical activities, occupational therapy is a combination of education, exercise, and rehabilitation.
What are activities of daily living?
These are the tasks the average person must do daily (or at least frequently and regularly) for safe and healthy living. Bathing, brushing teeth, grooming, using the toilet, and preparing and eating nutritious meals are all examples. In addition, instrumental activities of daily living (or ADLs) involve maintaining your living space through tasks like doing the laundry, keeping a reasonably clean home, shopping for groceries and other necessities, paying bills, and managing transportation.
When do you need occupational therapy?
For most older adults, maintaining independence is a primary goal. When you have trouble keeping up with activities of daily living, occupational therapy can help you achieve a better quality of life. In fact, occupational therapy’s main role is helping remove barriers so you can do the things you want and need to do to live a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life.
How can occupational therapy help?
Today there are more occupational therapy tools for seniors than ever before. This is partly due to advances in technology, but it’s also the result of a growing senior population and greater awareness of the role independence plays in successful aging. Occupational therapy is highly personalized, and therapists often get creative to find solutions that help you maintain your independence.
A grabber is a basic tool many occupational therapists recommend for helping seniors reach items without bending or straining, but that’s just the beginning. Therapists also have knowledge about and access to all kinds of adaptive or assistive devices, like a one-handed cutting board for someone who has lost strength in one arm due to a stroke or silverware that is weighted to help offset tremors. The list is practically endless, depending on your unique needs, from a plastic key cover that makes it easier for arthritic fingers to manage a lock to an extender that makes operating the recliner lever more efficient.
As part of your care team, an occupational therapist can make recommendations to your doctor and advocate to assist you in obtaining medical equipment like a walker or wheelchair. Once you receive the equipment, your occupational therapist can help you learn how to get the most out of using it.
Home Modification Advice
An occupational therapist can walk through your home and make suggestions to make your space more livable. Often, slight modifications make a home significantly safer, such as adjusting furniture to widen a walkway, removing tripping hazards, or putting frequently used items in closer reach. More significant changes, like installing a chair lift on the stairs or adding a ramp, improve mobility so you can travel around your home with greater ease.
Adding smart technology to your home can also make life easier, from alarms that remind you when to take medications to doorknobs you can unlock with your smartphone when an expected visitor arrives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 million Americans age 65 and older take a fall each year, and one in five of those falls result in serious injury. That’s why occupational therapists give plenty of attention to removing fall risks. Your therapist might suggest installing grab bars and slip-resistant flooring to make bathrooms safer, as well as recommending exercises to strengthen your muscles or reduce your tendency to shuffle your feet when you walk.
Occupational therapy isn’t just for your physical needs. For someone in the early stages of memory loss or dementia, therapy might involve mental stimulation or ideas for jogging your memory. You might get tips for keeping a journal or making lists of important information, and your therapist may suggest matching games or puzzles that flex your brain muscle.
If your memory or eyesight is failing, color coding household items can help keep you oriented. For example, your therapist might suggest stickers for your appliances’ power buttons or add brightly colored tape around a light switch or electrical outlet. An occupational therapist might also recommend buying a phone or remote control with larger buttons or help you access voice-activated controls for household items.
New Ways to Approach Tasks
Sometimes occupational therapy is more about shifting your approach than devices or exercise. For example, your therapist might suggest meal prepping for healthier meals and snacks through the week. If you struggle to put on your socks, your therapist might show you a new way to grip them so they pull on more smoothly.
Occupational therapy isn’t just for older adults; their caregivers can benefit from support as well. Therapists can provide information on new research and technology, along with reminders to practice self-care.
As you can see, there are far-reaching benefits of occupational therapy for seniors. Contact us to learn more about Springpoint’s network of senior living communities and how residents and Springpoint Choice members can access our occupational therapy services.