What Do Occupational Therapists Do for Seniors?
Occupational therapists (OTs) use creative problem solving to help seniors regain independence after illness or injury leaves them with diminished capacity. Occupational therapy can help seniors find strategic solutions to accomplish activities of daily living (ADLs) and other activities that are integral to a senior’s happiness. OTs can also work with family members and additional caregivers to ensure a senior has proper support.
Among other conditions, occupational therapy can help seniors who have experienced:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Parkinson’s disease
What are the necessary qualifications for an Occupational Therapist?
An occupational therapist has a bachelor’s degree in a similar field, like health science, psychology, health science, etc. They’ve also earned a master’s degree, which usually takes about two-and-a-half years. Some will also spend three additional years becoming a Doctor of Occupational Therapy.
What can occupational therapy help seniors accomplish?
Activities of Daily Living: ADLs are everyday self-care tasks that people need to be able to accomplish for themselves to consider themselves independent in their home.
- Medication Management
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living: IADLs allow an individual to live independently in a community. These activities may not be strictly necessary for functional living, but they improve quality of life and self-esteem.
- Managing Finances
- Cooking/Meal Preparation
- Home Maintenance
Activities Vital to an Individual’s Sense of Self: If there is a particular activity that you love — one that makes you feel happy and fulfilled — talk to your OT. Whether it’s golf, knitting, singing, or anything else, occupational therapy may be able to help you find a way to continue that activity.
How can occupational therapy help seniors overcome challenges?
An occupational therapist will start with an individual assessment to evaluate a senior’s individual abilities. They will then develop a customized intervention plan, which may include:
- Different approaches to an activity: An occupational therapist will look at actions that the senior finds challenging and suggest new ways it could be accomplished. For example, if the senior loves to cook, but chopping vegetables is difficult, an OT may suggest pre-chopped vegetables. An occupational therapist may also help you break down an action into manageable steps that lead to your ultimate goal.
- Adapting the environment: If a senior doesn’t feel they can be independent in their environment, the environment may need to be altered. An OT can recommend where to clear walking paths and where adaptive accessories may need to be installed, like grab rails, ramps, shower seat, raised toilet seat, and more.
- Specialized equipment: OTs have a deep knowledge of the equipment that can make a senior’s daily life easier. Depending on the senior’s individual situation, an OT may recommend a walking stick or walking frame, thick pens that are easier to grip, voice-controlled lights or locks, knives with large handles or an electric toothbrush. There are innumerable items that are designed to better suit special needs, and occupational therapy is a great opportunity to be introduced to them.
Occupational therapy can help seniors surmount the obstacles imposed by illness or injury. Scientific methodologies are combined with behavioral guidance and creative solutions to help seniors recover their sense of self. It’s a unique and effective form of therapy that has the power to change lives.