Occupational therapy is an interdisciplinary field encompassing physical and mental exercises designed to improve a patient's ability to function independently. Occupational therapists specializing in geriatrics help elderly patients by analyzing their needs, then designing exercises that support mind and body functions.
Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors
Occupational therapy is beneficial for older adults in numerous ways. The following are 8 key benefits of occupational therapy:
Overcome Challenges of Everyday Life
Occupational therapists use education, exercise, and rehabilitation techniques to help patients perform daily tasks. These techniques can include exercises such as sitting in a chair with your arms to your side and feet flat on the floor and slowly extending one leg out in front of you, holding it for a few seconds.
By focusing on what they can do rather than what they can't, occupational therapists teach patients how to do daily tasks safely based on their abilities. Regular occupational therapy, like working on crossword puzzles, doing arts and crafts, or reading a magazine, can help patients sharpen their fine and basic motor skills, keep up their strength and improve their dexterity.
Improves Cognitive Skills & Memory
With age, the brain's capacity for memory and cognition can decline. Occupational therapists help patients retain and improve their memory and cognitive skills at any stage of memory loss by offering sensory stimulation and simplified activities.
Various techniques can help patients with memory loss retain their memories, including playing memory-enhancing games and using stop signs on front doors to help prevent wandering. Caregivers can also educate themselves on effective methods for handling behaviors, such as limiting the number of items in a patient's refrigerator and pantry.
Recommend Home Modifications
Many elderly people live in homes that are not suitable for them anymore. An occupational therapist can make recommendations for modifying said homes to be safer and promote independent living.
Modifications may include:
Walk-in showers or bathtubs, handrails and grab bars in the shower and throughout the home, wheelchair ramps, power lift recliners, and slip-resistant flooring. The occupational therapist will also teach the homeowner how to use all of these devices and modifications; for example, they'll teach them how to enter a shower using handrails.
With help from occupational therapists, elderly people with eye conditions can restore their vision without surgery. The therapist first identifies whether the damage is repairable or not before giving tailored treatments that include exercises for the eyes and brain.
An occupational therapist might suggest changes in the home and work environment to make it easier to function. These changes might include more lighting and contrast and aid equipment like magnifiers. Removing any clutter that may pose a tripping hazard might also be suggested.
Visual therapy practices may include:
Painting the walls white
Changing the color of outlet covers to a different color
Labeling medication with brightly colored tabs and large print
Provide Caregiver Assistance
Primary caregivers often take on the burden of caring for a loved one. Occupational therapists are trained to evaluate a situation, such as a caregiver's workload, and develop a plan to alleviate some of the daily stressors. The therapist's goal with a primary caregiver is to make sure they're maintaining a lifestyle that meets both their needs and those of their loved ones. They do this in several ways:
- Encouraging caregivers to express their feelings
- Promoting healthy lifestyle habits, such as hobbies and or therapy
- Educating caregivers on current research regarding conditions and techniques
Balance & Fall Prevention
Falls are a leading cause of injury among the elderly, who suffer from a decline in balance and muscle strength as they age. One way to prevent falls is through occupational therapy. OT helps patients regain strength and balance by using exercises and techniques that improve their posture, coordination, and muscle tone.
Fall prevention tips:
- Wear sensible shoes
- Remove any home hazards
- Light up your living space
Help Manage Arthritis
For seniors dealing with arthritis, occupational therapists can help them through a few well-advised modifications to their homes and workplace.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. An occupational therapist will analyze the type of arthritis and help patients manage pain and discomfort by changing how they use their hands or repositioning themselves. This allows them to work more comfortably, with fewer breaks.
Increase the Range of Movement
One of the most helpful techniques used by occupational therapists is range of motion (ROM) exercises. These exercises increase a patient's range of motion and decrease pain and stiffness, especially in elderly patients who have worn out their ligaments and are ailed by arthritis.
The exercises differ depending on the body part and the underlying condition for a patient with a range-of-motion limitation. Two examples of range-of-motion exercises include active range of motion (AROM) and active assisted range of motion (AAROM). Both help users stretch their muscles, but AAROM allows for assistance from a therapist or partner.
Our occupational therapists help older patients regain their independence, enabling them to live life more fully. If you or a loved one could benefit from occupational therapy, request an appointment today!