People unfamiliar with occupational therapy may think it’s something that helps residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere get back to work after an injury.
This is true, but only a portion of the larger scope of what occupational therapy can consist of.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice wants people to know that occupational therapy is something that helps people learn or relearn skills that can allow them to continue what they were doing before an injury or medical condition caused mental or physical changes. Or, if this isn’t possible, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills based on changes in their life, including end-of-life care.
The American Occupational Therapy Association defines occupational therapy as “helping people across lifespans to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities.” Trained practitioners are asked to share ways to help clients improve their health and quality of life, as well as minimize, or even work around, any kinds of injuries or disabilities.
Learning these skills can improve independence, which can be appealing to people who want to do a lot of things themselves. Being able to do certain skills can make a difference between someone going back to their jobs after an injury or unable to perform. It can also affect whether someone is able to live by themselves or might need to bring in a caregiver or relocate to an assisted living center.
Providers might recommend occupational therapy for someone injured in a car accident who might have damaged or even lost their arm in an accident and have to learn to do things with their other arm. Poor health also might require amputation of a leg, requiring someone to learn to move around with a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
It might be also recommended for someone who had a stroke and part of their body doesn’t work anymore. Or a traumatic head injury might cause other skills to be lost.
Occupational therapy often is accompanied by physical therapy. In general, physical therapy helps to improve the movement of limbs, build strength and flexibility and stimulate muscle, while occupational focuses on learning tasks.
Along with different types of injuries or medical conditions benefitting from occupational therapy, it also could work for different age groups.
For instance, children who have disabilities may need help learning some basic skills so they can attend school by themselves. This can cover basic mobility, classroom tools or even coaching on social situations.
People of workforce age may need help learning skills to help them at a job or to live on their own, instead of with family members.
Occupational therapy for seniors
Seniors can especially benefit from occupational therapy.
They may want to live independently but they, or their family, may not be sure they’re able to do this, especially if they’re declining mentally and physically. Their bodies may be weaker because of the aging process or any physical injuries or medical conditions. Mental problems may also be increasing such as dementia.
So occupational therapy can help teach them a variety of skills to get around their home unassisted, including:
- Getting out of bed
- Changing clothes
- Preparing meals
- Basic housekeeping
- General mobility, either unassisted or with a cane or walker
- Tips to avoid or reduce injury from falls
- Bathing/Bathroom use
- Basic exercise
- Basic cognition
- Getting into bed
Part of an occupational therapist’s role can also offer to inspect someone’s living space to look for possible hazards. They can make recommendations for ways to improve safety as well.
This can include looking at things like if area rugs can be tripping hazards. Or if there are ways to make rooms in the house less dangerous, such as the kitchen, dining room, or bathroom.
With bathrooms, for instance, simple improvements can be made to reduce the risk of falling, such as adding non-slip stickers in the tub, placing handles throughout the room, bringing in a shower chair, or even a lower toilet seat.
They also can give recommendations for other equipment to improve your life, including mobility tools.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care offers the services of a certified occupational therapist as well as a certified occupational therapist assistant and lymphatic therapist.
It also offers a useful program called Sit and Get Fit, which encourages people to perform basic stretching and other physical activities from their chairs, even if they don’t have a lot of mobility.
If you’re interested in learning more about occupational therapy, the team at Above and Beyond will be happy to answer questions.
Plus, the AOTA encourages therapists and advocates to help spread the word about its benefits. April is also Occupational Therapy Month, an opportunity to learn about services and the history of this type of therapy.
Occupational therapy has been a complementary wellness approach for more than 100 years.