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What Is Occupational Therapy and How Does It Help Seniors?

An occupational therapist meets with a senior woman

Occupational therapy helps people at all stages of life develop, recover, or maintain the skills they need to do meaningful and necessary daily activities. Sometimes after an illness, injury or surgery, the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, bathing and grooming become harder to do. And when older adults experience diminished ranges of motion and mobility, ADLs can become challenging. That’s where occupational therapy comes in.

Occupational therapy services can help older adults maintain independence and have a higher quality of life.

How Does Occupational Therapy Work?

Occupational therapists take a holistic perspective, combining exercise and rehabilitation techniques with adapting the environment to meet a person’s needs.

  • First, there’s an evaluation, where the therapist works with the client to determine specific goals.
  • Customized occupational therapy interventions are then planned.
  • As the interventions progress, evaluations are done to make sure that goals are being met, and to make any adjustments needed along the way.

Occupational therapists also educate and work with the client’s support team, such as family members and caregivers, to make sure everyone understands their role in the care program.

What Are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors?

Meeting everyday challenges.

An occupational therapist teaches exercises and rehabilitation techniques that can help you improve fine motor skills, dexterity, strength, and range of motion – all of which can make it easier to get dressed, eat and bathe. The focus is on improving what a person can do, so they can perform ADLs safely.

Fall prevention.

One in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year. And some of those falls can have serious consequences. Since falls aren’t just caused by one issue, occupational therapists look at multiple ways to keep a client on their feet. They review the home environment for hazards and make modification recommendations. They teach balance and muscle-building exercises, as well as strategies to address fears of falling, which may be limiting a person’s activity.

Support for memory loss.

Occupational therapy can be helpful for those with dementia, especially during early stages of memory loss. A therapist can teach a client how to adapt and compensate. For example, they can demonstrate how to use lists and other prompts to aid recollection, or provide simplified crossword puzzles so the person with dementia can keep enjoying a pleasurable activity. Occupational therapists also work with caregivers, teaching them techniques to manage behavioral or personality changes, or by offering practical strategies such as placing a limited selection of clothing in the closet for those who forget what season it is.

Help with vision impairments.

Occupational therapists can teach activities that promote visual awareness and pattern recognition, reinforcing perception skills. They may suggest bright stickers on appliances so it’s easier to see which buttons to push. Color coding medications, putting bright tape on stairs to prevent trips and falls, adjusting the home’s lighting, and introducing visual aid equipment are just a few other occupational therapy interventions that can help those with vision loss.

These are just a few benefits occupational therapy offers seniors. According to the American Occupational Therapists Association, “Occupational therapy practitioners address all aspects of aging, from wellness strategies to treatment.” They work to help older adults maintain independence and stay safe, which can reduce health care costs associated with hospitalization.

Occupational Therapy Services at Galleria Woods. Whatever your needs are, our skilled therapy team will work with you to develop an individualized plan to get you back to an active life as quickly as possible. Learn more about our rehabilitation center.