How can occupational therapy help seniors?
Occupational therapy is a treatment that empowers people to overcome barriers and promotes their participation in their daily activities/occupations. Through empowerment an individual can lead a more independent and productive life. An OT is focused on patient goals revolving around improving life skills and promoting engagement in activities that are meaningful to the person, ultimately leading to a better quality of life. Within this process Occupational therapists consider the person’s environment (social support, physical), their abilities (cogitative, emotional function, physical), and the activities or “occupations” that they choose to, or need to, perform (i.e. leisure-based activities, self-care). Occupational therapists can help seniors in the following ways:
Promote and Encourage Independence in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Occupational therapy for seniors primarily focuses helping Seniors overcome their limitations and challenges thereby focusing on what the individual is still capable of doing, rather than what they cannot do. Below are some examples of how an occupational therapist may work with a senior to help them perform their daily routines:
- Provide education on proper body mechanics, energy conservation and sleep strategies
- Teach alternate or modified ways of performing a meaningful activity or task so that there can be increased participation
- Recommend equipment that will ease the performance of a task and to promote their safety (i.e. utilizing a stool during meal preparation, use of a bath seat while showring/bathing)
- Adapt environment for those with low vision (ie increase contrast of colours) Help a person with low vision adapt the environment (i.e. increase colour contrast etc.)
- Establish routines for those with cogitative impairment such as poor memory and or attention by using compensation strategies (i.e. establishing routines, use of a day timer, reminders, to do lists and the use of technology such as tablets/computer/cell phones).
- Promote engagement in social, leisure- based and community events within their capabilities
Promote Home Safety and Recommend Modifications
By assessing and individual’s environment an Occupational Therapist can provide recommendations on how to optimize their home thus promoting full participation in activities of daily life, as while as well as maintaining their safety. Home modifications may include the installation of a ramp or porch lift, of a grab bar in the shower or beside the toilet, or the installation of an accessible kitchen etc. Other assistive devices may also be suggested to promote independence in their activities of daily living such as the use of a bath seat while bathing, the use of a pill box when taking medications, or the installation of an automatic shut off stove. Home safety assessments can help one become or maintain independence, prevent falls, prevent hospitalization and help someone to live more safely and independently in their home. We can also assist with connecting to community or provincial based funding programs for home modifications (i.e. Ontario March of Dimes) and complete the necessary paper work.
Promote Safe Mobility and Optimal Positioning
Occupational therapists will assess an individual’s mobility including their gait, balance, their ability to transfer (i.e. on/off toilet or chair, in/out of tub) as well as their ability to negotiate stairs. To promote independence an OT will prescribe the necessary transfer, mobility and positioning equipment further promoting their independence while improving their safety at home and within the community. At Pillars of Wellness, we have occupational therapists that are registered with the Assistive Device Program (ADP) with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care that can complete funding applications for mobility devices such as walkers, rollators, manual and power wheelchairs and scooters. Furthermore, Occupational Therapists can also provide education on skin protection and assess the need for an appropriate mattress and/or other surface (i.e. wheelchair cushions) to prevent and/or treat pressure sores and wounds.
Occupational therapists can develop a return to activity program while gradually increasing one’s tolerance for activity as well as developing a daily routine that may incorporate rest breaks. They will also provide education on energy conservation, task modification and proper body mechanics. The provision of assistive equipment and technology may also be recommended. Our Occupational Therapists are skilled at providing education on coping strategies that may include visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness-based meditation. Other technology and/or modalities may also be used to treat pain including Microcurrent Point Stimulation.
Cognitive Rehabilitation/Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia Care
Our Occupational Therapists will utilize comprehensive cognitive assessments to determine an individual’s strengths and limitations and from there develop specialized treatment plans that include both remedial and compensatory strategies. We work with the client, their family, and other members of his/her medical team to promote safety at home and in the community. Treatment approaches may include the following:
- Providing training and strategies to improve/maintain independence with activities of daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, eating, shopping, housekeeping etc. These activities may be graded based on an individual’s capabilities in order to preserve their identity and to promote continued engagement and sense of self
- Incorporating socially and physically stimulating activities into one’s daily activities
- Developing leisure-based activity programs ones daily routine
- Recommending electronic assistive equipment, adaptation, and technology to promote independence, reduce care costs and allow client to remain safe within home
- Advising caregivers on supporting someone living with memory loss and other cognitive impairments
- Assessing the home environment as well as making strategies to effectively compensate for impaired memory, learning and reasoning skills
- Helping reduce levels of stress experienced by people with dementia and their caregivers
- Linking to community supports (i.e. meals on wheels, day programs, Alzheimer’s Society, connecting to wandering registry etc.)