If you’re not familiar with occupational therapy, there’s a lot to learn. But the bottom line, at least for Mt. Vernon residents, is that it’s something that can benefit just about everyone.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care wants to spread the word that occupational therapy isn’t just a way to get workers back into the workforce either. It’s really more of a way to either help get people’s skills back to where they were before an injury, accident, or health condition took place, or if this is not possible due to permanent changes in health or mobility, occupational therapy can also help people learn and develop new skills.
Occupational therapy certainly can help workers recover or gain new skills in the workplace if their health condition affects their performance. But it also can help seniors who want to learn or adapt to activities that can allow them to live independently in their homes, rather than having to relocate to an assisted living center or retirement community.
An occupational therapist can provide assistance with the various tasks and strategies required for independence, such as getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, grooming, preparing and eating meals, and basic cleaning. Doing all of these safely can show concerned family members, providers and others that you’re capable of living independently.
The occupational process
Occupational therapists have received training in different methods which can benefit patients. Regular visits by these professionals can help patients develop skills in everything from reducing fall risks to housekeeping. Essentially the various “jobs” that occupational therapy can help improve things for all relate to safe, independent living, everything from getting in and out of bed to brushing teeth. Other tasks of daily living can include doing laundry, leisure activities like watching or playing games; or playing a musical instrument.
These “daily living” tasks can be cognitive as well. Someone with dementia or brain damage can be evaluated based on how well they can perform certain mental tasks like a puzzle.
Therapists can offer a variety of advice and professional recommendations as well:
- Safety needs. Does a patient’s home now need modifications to help them get around better and more safely? These can include things like sturdy hand rails, handles or other additions in hallways or rooms. Ramps also could be something added for someone who now might have difficulty going up and down stairs. Safety items like handles can be added to places like bathtubs and showers, which can be slippery especially for someone dealing with other mobility challenges.
- Equipment needs. An occupational therapist can suggest other personal items to help someone move around better, such as a cane or walker. Someone unfamiliar with how to use these types of assistive devices or new problems walking may need some guidance on ways to use them properly, distribute one’s weight and balance more effectively, or get up and down from a lying or sitting position.
- Other services. Clients also might be working with a physical therapist to further work on increasing movement and building muscle tone. They also could work with a massage therapist to ease aching muscles, relax tension and reduce pain. They could also work with other providers and caregivers as well. As long as the patient provides permission for these therapists to discuss his or her therapy, all of these professionals can confer on how the patient is progressing or what areas of improvement could still be needed.
Because every home environment and every patient is different in their needs and wants, it can be a challenge for occupational therapists to say “let’s always do it this way” for everyone they work with.
So the first step is to visit the patient’s home and assess the safety of areas and equipment and also highlight areas that can be improved in order to perform. This can include recommending that new items be added, and it can also recommend removing or adjusting items that can be thought of as safety hazards.
Hazards can include things like an overloaded plug strip, which can increase fire risk; or a dangerous old-style space heater which can also increase fire risk.
An occupational therapist begins to look at not just the physical conditions of a home but how a patient interacts with different parts of the environment.
This can sometimes be done by asking the patient to go about their daily routines and exercises and demonstrate if there are safety needs.
For instance, a patient can stand where they usually stand in the kitchen. The occupational therapist can look at how things are set up there when they cook, including access to a sink, cutlery, and pans and ingredients, and that all elements are safe. (It’s not uncommon for a senior to have old moldy food in the refrigerator or pantry.)
Above and Beyond can help
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care will happily connect residents living in the Aurora area with either a certified occupational therapist or a certified occupational therapy assistant and lymphatic therapist.