Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors

Did you know April is Occupational Therapy (OT) month? This is an important healthcare holiday that recognizes the positive impact occupational therapists have on their patients’ lives. Whether a senior has an injury, illness, or disability, these professionals help seniors achieve a better quality of life and enable them to regain their independence needed in everyday life. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of occupational therapy for seniors across the country.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a type of therapy designed to help people of all stages develop, maintain, or regain the skills necessary to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). Each patient is different, therefore therapy treatment plans will depend on the patient’s specific needs. For example, a senior with Parkinson’s disease will require a different OT compared to a person recovering from a serious fall injury in their home.

Additionally, occupational therapists educate and work with a patient’s care team (i.e. caregivers, doctors, nurses, social workers, and family). This is a crucial step to ensure the patient receives the proper care to help them meet their personal goals.

What Are the Benefits of OT?

1. Overcome Challenges of Everyday Life

For seniors recovering from an illness or injury, performing everyday activities can be challenging. This includes everything from bathing, dressing, and grooming to eating, toileting, and home management. When seniors are unable to perform these daily tasks, this can lead to feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and even embarrassed. Seniors may be less likely to socialize with others and do things they love, which may lead to feeling depressed and lonely.

To help overcome these daily challenges, occupational therapists help patients learn how to perform exercises and rehabilitation techniques that make it easier for patients to complete ADLs. These activities of daily living include walking, dressing, bathing, eating, and toileting. 

Occupational therapists help seniors improve their basic motor skills, strength, dexterity, range of motion, and mobility. By gradually improving these key skills, patients will find it easier to complete everyday tasks and safely regain their independence they deserve.

2. Fall Prevention

In the United States, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experience a fall every year. Every year, around 3 million seniors are treated in an emergency room due to fall injuries. It’s clear that fall prevention has become a top priority for today’s seniors. After all, there are health risks involved when an elderly person falls down.

Did you know that OT is an excellent way to prevent falls? Therapists can teach seniors special techniques and exercises designed to improve their balance, strengthen their muscles, and prevent future falls. When their balance and strength is improved, patients will find it easier to walk and maintain their center of gravity.

3. Improve Vision and Memory Loss

An estimated 1 in 3 Americans that are 65 or older have some type of vision loss or eye disease. Seniors that suffer from vision loss or eye diseases may struggle with doing everyday activities, which can increase their likelihood for mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Occupational therapists can help seniors with vision issues by performing activities designed to improve their vision. Specifically, a therapist may recommend activities to improve a patient’s perceptual vision, pattern detection, and vision awareness. Aside from activities, therapists may offer suggestions to make a patient’s home safer and thus, help a patient overcome everyday challenges with vision loss.

An occupational therapist may recommend:

  • Removing clutter from the patient’s home that can lead to tripping/falling
  • Color coding household items and medications to identify them
  • Improving the patient’s lighting in their home
  • Using magnifiers to read small print
  • Labeling appliances with brightly colored stickers
  • Painting walls with light colors and outlets a darker color to create visual contrast
  • Placing brightly colored tape on steps for fall prevention

4. Improve Memory Loss

Some people may be surprised to hear that occupational therapy helps improve not just a patient’s physical health, but their mental health too. When a therapist meets their patients, they will evaluate their cognitive abilities and then create a personalized care plan based on their needs. Therapists can create a plan designed to maintain a patient’s strengths and work on areas of improvement. 

Occupational therapists play a key role in helping seniors regain their memory skills needed in everyday life. These techniques may include:

  • Playing memory-enhancing activities, including puzzles and matching games
  • Labeling front doors with stop signs for patients that become easily confused and may wonder away from home
  • Educating caregivers on effective techniques to handle patients with extreme personality changes
  • Educating caregivers on simple techniques to make it easier for patient’s remember, such as limiting the number of items in a patient’s fridge or pantry

5. Modify the Home

For many healthy seniors, living in their own home independently is ideal. Of course, many homes are not well-suited for the elderly as they pose safety risks. Occupational therapists can evaluate a patient’s home to determine if it can be modified. The therapist can offer suggestions that will improve the safety of their patient’s home and encourage independent living.

Home Modifications May Include:

  • Home monitoring alert systems
  • Grab bars throughout the home, especially in showers
  • Power lift recliners
  • Slip-resistant flooring
  • Shower benches
  • Wheelchair ramps 

If these modifications are implemented, the therapist will show the patient how to use these new modifications. Like any new change, it’s important for the patient to know how to properly use something new, such as a home monitoring alert system if the patient has a fall. Indeed, this will reduce the possibility of becoming confused or injured. 

6. Promote Independence

A primary goal of occupational therapy is to help patients regain the skills needed in everyday life, so they can achieve independence. Therapists will carefully evaluate each patient’s health needs and create a care plan that will help patients overcome their daily challenges. Through a combination of education, care, and support, therapists can help patients achieve and maintain their goals.

As you can see, there are a wide range of benefits of occupational therapy for seniors. If you are interested in learning more about our occupational therapy or other expert services, contact Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services today.