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What Is Occupational Therapy and When Might Seniors Need It?

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What Is Occupational Therapy and When Might Seniors Need It?

April is National Occupational Therapy Month, which is a great time to talk about what occupational therapy is and how it can help seniors in the Grand Villa assisted living community. Many people think occupational therapy is just another name for physical therapy, but it's actually a different discipline within the allied health care field (which covers a range of services including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, imaging and lab work).

What Is Occupational Therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association defines OT as "the only profession that helps people across their lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations)."

The goal of occupational therapy is different from the goal of physical therapy, although these two disciplines often work together. Physical therapy is aimed at promoting the healing of an injury or other issue so that specific function, such as range of motion, becomes better. Occupational therapy is aimed at promoting an ability to live healthy and prevent further injury or disability when possible.

The AOTA notes that occupational therapists do this via a wide range of treatment methods, including helping individuals regain (or develop) skills, adapting environments to fit the needs of a person and teaching someone to use new equipment to perform daily tasks.

Ways Occupational Therapy May Help Seniors

Occupational therapy can provide numerous benefits for older adults. This is true for individuals who have suffered an injury or illness that leaves them with different functional norms than before. It's also true for those who are recovering from surgeries or simply seeing a change in physical cognitive function because of the aging process.

Some ways OTs can offer assistance in these types of scenarios include:

Providing the education and resources seniors need to overcome or face daily challenges, such as limited range-of-motion that makes it difficult to perform regular tasks

Recommending home modifications to make life safer and easier for seniors, including power lift seats, grab bars, medical alert systems or bathroom safety products, and helping seniors integrate these types of products into daily routines

Working with seniors who are experiencing memory loss or other cognitive issues to develop good daily habits and engage in activities to protect cognitive function as much as possible.

Educating seniors and working with them to create proactive environmental changes to ensure independence and safety in the face of vision loss.

Seniors at Grand Villa assisted living community who are in need of occupational therapy can often work with professionals without leaving their own homes. If you think some of these OT services might be beneficial to you or your loved one, talk to the assisted living staff or your primary care provider about what options are available to you.