You’re probably familiar with the term “occupational therapy,” but you may not fully understand what it is and why it’s helpful. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at occupational therapy for the elderly and explore the many benefits it can have for older adults.
What is occupational therapy?
At first glance, it’s reasonable to assume occupational therapy is related to someone’s job or workplace. But according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy helps people of all ages accomplish the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).
Is it different from physical therapy?
People often confuse occupational therapy with physical therapy — which isn’t surprising since they are both related to movement and mobility. But the main difference is that while physical therapy is all about functional mobility, occupational therapy addresses the tasks for which mobility is used. So while physical therapy might seek to strengthen hip and leg muscles after hip replacement surgery, occupational therapy works to help the patient relearn how to sit, stand and transfer with their new hip.
Occupational therapy for the elderly also helps clients use specific equipment to help them function. This could include reachers, splints, dressing aides, and specialized utensils and dishes. It all depends on the patient’s needs and physical limitations.
The benefits of occupational therapy for the elderly
While occupational therapy can help children with disabilities and people recovering from injury, it’s also beneficial for older adults with physical or cognitive challenges. As we age, our bodies change. Muscles lose strength, joints become stiff, and our sense of balance declines. Occupational therapy can help seniors address these changes to regain mobility, optimize their home environment, and overcome daily challenges.
Activities of daily living (ADLs)
One of the primary ways occupational therapy can help older adults is by formulating approaches to the six basic ADLs, which include eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, mobility, and continence. The goal is to help seniors learn to move and function despite physical, range-of-motion and mobility challenges. Therapists work to form specific strategies to help seniors do what they used to or want to do, either by overcoming limitations or finding alternatives.
For some seniors, certain tasks can’t be accomplished without modification to the home. Railings, mats, grab bars or other assistive devices can help improve balance and stability. Modified utensils can make eating easier. These adaptations can make a huge difference for seniors suffering from arthritis or Parkinson’s. But these modifications to the living space don’t just help improve functionality; they make the overall environment safer.
Improved mood and mental health
Occupational therapy for the elderly isn’t just about physical well-being. Therapists can also incorporate relaxation techniques into a senior’s routine to help reduce stress or anxiety. One condition where this therapy can have a significant impact is with dementia. In addition to self-care challenges, dementia impacts memory and communication. Occupational therapy can help patients and their families learn how to simplify activities and communication to coincide with the patient’s functional level. For seniors just wanting to stay mentally sharp, crossword puzzles, sudoku, or other memory games or puzzles can help give cognition and memory a workout.
Better quality of life
The ultimate goal of occupational therapy for the elderly is to equip clients to increase longevity, help make daily tasks possible again, and help them remain independent longer. This independence can help build a sense of empowerment and self-confidence, leading to an improved quality of life.
Occupational therapy at Grand Lodge
Occupational therapy is just one of the many rehabilitation services available to residents of Grand Lodge at the Preserve. Learn more by filling out the brief contact form below to have one of our sales counselors touch base with you soon.