Aging can come with plenty of fears and anxieties for residents of Mt. Vernon and elsewhere, many of which center around not being able to do what you used to as easily or safely. One common concern is the possibility of health conditions making it so they are no longer able to live independently and have to relocate somewhere unfamiliar for hospice care or other situations.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice understands these concerns and knows that many people greatly prize their independence. Though some assisted living communities can be good choices for some because of higher levels of medical care and support, plus amenities like meals and activities, they still can feel like an unpopular option to someone who would much rather stay comfortable in their own surroundings.
It can be tricky to balance these wishes for familiarity with those of family members and loved ones who may be more concerned with a decline in health and even legitimate safety concerns for someone home alone, especially if they have mobility challenges or mental conditions, such as dementia, which could affect their quality of life. Recent changes, such as a stroke or trauma from a fall or accident, could also make considering relocation more urgent.
Depending on the individual and their condition, solutions can include scheduling regular visits by home health staff or a part-time or full-time caregiver. It could also include working with a home health care company and other therapists to learn or re-learn some skills to help them remain independent.
Learn about occupational therapy
The general term for many of these types of skills is occupational therapy, which covers helping someone learn and demonstrate certain activities and routines to help them remain independent throughout the day.
This type of therapy often starts with learning the correct and safest way to get out of bed and dressed. These are both skills that most of us do without thinking since they’ve been familiar activities for most of our lives. We have done them so often that it’s easy to do without thinking.
But someone who has had a stroke, been in an accident, or suffered other trauma that has caused brain damage or other mental or physical impairment may have forgotten these behaviors or need to relearn the process. So, an occupational therapist can help teach them the proper steps to move around so they can properly get out of bed unassisted each morning. Or the correct order to put on a shirt and button it – or choose a shirt without buttons if these might be too big of a challenge.
Occupational therapy differs from physical therapy, in which certain muscle groups and parts of the body are targeted to help a client improve abilities that may have been lost or reduced. It’s also different from massage therapy, where a therapist helps reduce pain and increase relaxation by massaging sore muscles. (Home health care can arrange for all of these therapies, however, since they all can contribute to improving someone’s health and wellness.)
Occupational therapy was initially used to help people recover from trauma so they can go back into the workforce. They may not be able to perform the same job they had before their trauma or medical condition. But occupational therapy can help them learn enough skills to be employable.
This type of therapy has expanded into being able to help people learn enough skills to remain as independent as possible – think of “living by myself at home” as their job.
An occupational therapist can work with clients to learn their usual daily routine and come up with different activities to focus on. Besides getting in and out of bed safely and getting dressed, they can work on grooming (shaving, brushing teeth, etc.), and bathing. They can work on skills in other parts of the house as well, such as walking up and down stairs, preparing meals, eating, cleaning up, and then doing the “waking tasks” in reverse like getting ready for bed and then getting into bed.
Other occupational efforts
Besides teaching these skills, an occupational therapist can also assess a client’s home to make sure there aren’t challenges to getting around. For instance, area rugs can be removed since those could be tripping hazards or could catch canes or walkers and increase the risk of falls. Certain rooms like bathrooms or kitchens may have hard surfaces with sharp edges, like counters. This assessment could also include suggestions for ways to improve safety, such as more handles in the hallways or bathrooms.
There’s plenty of useful information about the value of occupational therapy. This month is also a good to time to learn more. The American Occupational Therapy Association has declared that April is Occupational Therapy Month. It’s an opportunity to learn more about this profession and recognize the training they’ve received and the benefits available.
The AOTA site suggests several fairly easy outreach tasks people can try in order to spread the word about the profession. This is everything from social media posts to letters/columns in newspapers. There are also podcasts and other ways to give people a realistic view of the condition and how they can help.