Occupational Therapy & Seniors: An All-inclusive Approach To Continued Independence

shsbethesda 06 Apr 2023

According to a 2022 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, 88% of individuals in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 80 want to age in place. We at Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services completely understand this desire. Aging at home allows those we serve to remain surrounded by a supportive community, avoid the stress and expense of moving, and enjoy the familiar comforts of home for as long as possible.

While the services our caregivers provide help our clients realize this possibility, we believe it’s important to share other ways our senior community can foster independence – through occupational therapy (OT), for instance. Given that April is National Occupational Therapy Month, it’s the perfect time to showcase how OT can help seniors live the life they want!

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Simply put, OT helps seniors complete everyday tasks more easily, allowing them to remain independent for longer. An occupational therapist will work with you or your senior loved one to devise a plan to overcome physical, mental, and situational barriers that can stifle autonomy.

Another major benefit of occupational therapy is its holistic approach to senior wellbeing. Not only do OT professionals address the physical aspects that make daily life difficult, but they also deal with psychological, cognitive, and social issues that often keep seniors from continuing to participate in activities they enjoy.

What Might OT Look Like For Seniors?

As mentioned, occupational therapy covers a wide variety of needs, so the solutions providers offer their patients are quite varied as well. While the recommendations offered to you or your special senior will depend on individual needs, below are a few common ways occupational therapists help seniors age with grace and continued independence.

Build Back Basic Skills

OT providers help seniors improve basic and fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and flexibility, all of which make completing everyday functions like dressing, eating, and bathing easier.

Recommend Home Modifications

Slips and falls are a big concern for many Seniors Helping Seniors® clients and their families. In addition to suggesting physical exercises to improve balance, strength, and mobility, occupational therapists recommend ways that seniors can make the home less prone to accidents. They might suggest adding handrails in the bathtub, slip-resistant flooring, or develop a plan of attack for clearing cluttered areas.

In addition to suggesting changes to prevent falls, occupational therapists encourage seniors to make modifications that help simplify other everyday tasks. These could include:

  • Replacing door knobs with pull handles
  • Rearrange cabinets to put commonly used items in easier reach
  • Adjusting the height of beds and the width of door frames
  • Adding lighting, and more

Cognitive Exercises

Furthermore, occupational therapists work to improve their patients’ cognitive abilities with things like memory exercises, puzzles, brain games, and sensory stimulation.

Improve Outlook

Seniors who participate in occupational therapy often realize an increase in confidence and a more hopeful outlook on life. OT focuses on the activities seniors can complete, not the abilities that may have been lost. This provides the motivation to continue learning and working to strengthen the body and mind.

Provide Support To Caregivers

Occupational therapists will also work with caregivers – both family and hired. This can include educating them on ways they can help their loved one or client continue practicing OT at home or providing techniques to better handle a loved one’s changing abilities. For example, they might:

  • Teach caregivers approaches to handle sudden personality changes in loved ones
  • Demonstrate specific ways to make daily tasks easier, like offering a limited number of clothing options for their senior to choose from
  • Provide caregivers with exercises their client or family member can practice to reduce stress and improve problem-solving capabilities

Additionally, OT providers act as a trusted confidant for family caretakers. They offer a safe place to vent frustrations, share concerns, and discuss their loved one’s condition. These professionals also suggest methods family caregivers can use to cope with the stresses of caring for an aging parent or relative and encourage them to maintain balance in their own lives.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the ways occupational therapy helps seniors continue living active and independent lives! We at Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services love seeing our senior community utilizing all of the tools at their disposal and would be happy to discuss how OT could help you or a senior loved one too. Let’s talk!

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