In Hernando and elsewhere around the country, many people will be observing Occupational Therapy Month in April to increase national awareness of the need for this service, as well as for the professionals who provide the service. Senior home care professionals are aware that occupational therapy helps seniors recover or maintain the skills necessary to accomplish daily activities and enjoy a higher quality of life. When a senior is limited by their range of motion or mobility, it can take away many of their favorite activities, and leave them more sedentary. Occupational therapists perform a very necessary role in determining the current capabilities of a senior and then developing a program of therapeutic exercises for them. Caregivers can then assist the senior in scheduling and continuing this program, to be more mobile and more active. Here are some reasons why your elderly loved one might need occupational therapy.
Help with vision loss
Seniors who suffer from vision problems such as glaucoma, can benefit by working with an occupational therapist who can recommend activities that encourage visual awareness, help the senior to detect patterns, and to reinforce skills related to perception. The occupational therapist might recommend some modifications to the home setting in this regard, using more lighting, using magnifiers when reading, or possibly even color-coded ID tags. The therapist might also recommend the removal of clutter that could cause trips and falls, color-coding and labeling medication, or putting neon tape on stairways to reduce the possibility of trips and falls.
Occupational therapists have been trained to evaluate the effectiveness of a caregiver and to help lighten their workload if that should be necessary. With regard to a primary caregiver, the therapist seeks to ensure that the caregiver maintains a lifestyle that meets the patient’s needs without jeopardizing their own needs. They encourage caregivers to express their feelings, which often include frustration, stress, and anger. They also recommend coping strategies and try their best to encourage healthy lifestyle habits such as therapy, hobbies, and regular exercise. Occupational therapists also have access to the latest information on research in this area, and they can pass that along to caregivers so that they’ll be able to make better decisions in managing their patients.
Overcoming everyday challenges
Occupational therapists make use of rehabilitation techniques, as well as exercise and education, to help make it easier for patients to do daily tasks. In this way, activities such as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and going to the bathroom can be made much easier for the patient. The therapist is also aware of range of motion exercises that can help a patient become more active and less restricted in what they can do. By focusing on what a patient can do instead of what limits them, the occupational therapist will help their charges to accomplish all kinds of daily activities safely, all of which will be based on their current capabilities. Patients can sharpen their motor skills and their fine skills by doing such activities as arts and crafts, puzzles, and even reading a magazine. Therapists will generally recommend other activities that tend to increase strength and improve the dexterity and flexibility of patients.
Support for memory loss
In the early stages of memory loss, occupational therapy can be very important. Therapists will generally try to assess the cognitive ability of a patient first, and then try to adjust and address behavioral or personality changes through behavioral modification. Patients who are going through dementia can have their strengths and weaknesses measured, and exercises or activities can be developed which will help to overcome these shortcomings. There is no cure for dementia, but it is still possible to improve the quality of life for a patient by addressing areas that need work through adaptation and compensation.
An occupational therapist can demonstrate to a dementia patient how certain prompts such as lists can aid with recalling important things. One area where the therapist can be especially helpful is in replacing repetitive, non-productive behaviors with tasks that are much more engaging for the senior. For example, if the senior used to enjoy doing the daily crossword puzzle from a newspaper, the therapist might provide them with simpler puzzles that can be figured out.
For seniors who tend to wander or become disoriented, stop signs can be placed on front doors or fence gates. Seniors suffering from personality changes might sometimes react negatively toward their caregivers, and this kind of behavior can be responded to by teaching caregivers methods for coping with this kind of behavior. Another good example of how a therapist might make things easier for a forgetful senior is to limit their clothing selection to appropriate seasonal wear, so the senior isn’t overcome by numerous choices.
There are many ways that an occupational therapist can help an elderly loved one cope with the loss of mobility, flexibility, and even cognitive skills. During Occupational Awareness Month, we should all express our appreciation for this important function, and do our best to help them help our senior loved ones.