What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a treatment that emerged in the United States in 1917 with the goal of helping people improve life skills and maintain their independence. Using a holistic approach, occupational therapists create programs that focus on adapting one’s environment to match that individual’s lifestyle. This process is completed by incorporating a variety of focused exercises and meaningful activities that promote participation in everyday life.

For seniors, occupational therapy assists in combatting the physical limitations that can present themselves over time. In fact, over one-third of occupational therapists work with seniors that have been affected by illness, injury or a mental health condition. By focusing on what the person can do and not on their restrictions, occupational therapists help seniors with the activities of daily life, including cooking, dressing, bathing and eating.

As an advocate for the senior population, occupational therapists can also play a key role in the memory loss some aging adults may face. Therapists use a step-by-step approach to assess a person’s cognitive abilities and use behavioral adjustments to assist with any changes in personality. First, the therapist will evaluate the individual’s physical and cognitive abilities. Then, the individual is tested with a series of constructed tasks and a personalized plan is created to meet his or her unique needs. If cognitive abilities continue to decline over time, the plan is adjusted to provide more sensory stimulation and educate the family caregivers on next steps.

Creating Independence Through Occupational Therapy

Although maintaining optimal health is ideal, being prepared and adjusting for the changes in your physical and mental abilities over time can help you lead an independent lifestyle. Some of the main benefits of occupational therapy for seniors include:

  • Modifications to the home environment. Minor changes around the house can help aging adults stay safer at home. Therapists help optimize one’s home using devices such as grab bars in the shower, bathtub benches, lower shelf storage and other modifications to allow the individual to continue about their everyday lifestyles freely.
  • Increased mobility and fall prevention. By assessing the individual’s needs, occupational therapists can provide assistive devices and adaptive exercises to promote independence and mobility, as well as lower the risk of a fall.
  • Wellness in everyday life. Occupational therapy can provide a positive influence on seniors facing challenges in everyday life. Whether the issue lies within physical limitations or cognitive decline, therapists help enhance quality of life through programs that promote independence with the daily tasks of bathing, dressing, cooking and eating.
  • Support for caregivers. While occupational therapists can play a key role in seniors’ health, they are also a resource for loved ones and family caregivers. Therapists work with families to find support groups, respite care services and other programs to eliminate some of the pressure of daily care for a loved one.

Occupational Therapy with Western Home Communities

After illness, injury or surgery, the Rehab to Home program at Western Home Communities is here to get you back on your feet. Our occupational therapists work with you to design a plan of care and optimize your independence. To learn more about our Rehab to Home therapy services or to schedule a tour of our senior living community, contact us today at (319) 277-2141.