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What Is Occupational Therapy And How Can It Benefit Seniors?

June 15th, 2022

Occupational therapy can have benefits at any time of your life, but many people undergo an OT assessment as they get older and their needs and abilities begin to change. Ultimately, it’s designed to help you to live as independently as possible and to get the support you need to do so. Read on to find out what exactly occupational therapy involves, what an assessment looks like, and how it could benefit you as you get older.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is designed to help improve your ability to perform everyday tasks you may be struggling with, whether this is due to an illness, recovery from surgery, trauma, mental health issues, a disability, or your needs changing as you get older. You may need this type of support to resolve short-term issues, such as while you recover from an operation, or you may need to find some long-term solutions, for example if you need to use a wheelchair and need to modify your home.

nurse talking to older patient

Examples of adjustments occupational therapy could help with include:

  • Getting shower rails or a walk-in shower installed in your home while you recover from a hip or knee replacement operation
  • Installing ramps in your home if you can no longer manage steps or need to use a wheelchair
  • Helping with colour coding everyday items if your sight is beginning to decline
  • Advising on suitable foods for someone living with dementia to eat as their ability to chew or swallow declines
  • Recommending exercises to help with motor skills, such as finger exercises to help with picking items up

OTs can also advise on exercises that could help with particular motor skills, or to help improve strength or dexterity. In addition, they can provide advice on different ways to approach tasks to make them easier, safer, and more comfortable to complete, depending on your individual needs. 

Occupational therapy can be accessed via the NHS or privately – speak to your GP if you think you may benefit from this kind of support.

What Does An Occupational Therapy Assessment Involve?

healthcare professional appointment

As you get older and notice your mobility or cognitive abilities begin to change, you may want to consider undergoing an occupational therapy assessment. Going through this process could help you to maintain as much of your independence as possible as you age, potentially helping you to continue living in your own home for longer. 

An occupational therapist will observe you for a few hours, ask you questions about how you perform certain tasks, and they may also speak to your current support network. OTs are there to work with you to identify and eliminate barriers that are getting in the way of performing everyday tasks and living your life to the full, so be honest about your answers to any questions. This will help them to get an overall picture of how well you’re managing particular tasks, taking your physical, emotional, and mental abilities into account. 

The OT will then be able to advise what you need extra help and support with, and how you can access that, whether it’s modifications that are needed in your home, new ways to approach tasks, and whether or not you should still be living independently. 

For example, the assessment may help to determine whether you need support with dressing, or whether you can dress yourself with the support of assistance aids such as zip pulls or button fasteners. The OT may also advise you how much exercise you should be doing each day, and on specific exercises to try to improve your strength, balance, or general mobility. 

In some cases, an occupational therapy assessment may highlight that additional support from carers is needed, which may signal that it’s time to move into a residential care home where extra support will be on hand 24/7. Find out more about when you should think about moving into a care home here.

How Can Occupational Therapy Benefit Older People?

elderly person holding walking stick

Occupational therapy is designed to help you to get the most out of everyday life and to stay as independent as possible as you get older. This could be realised via the benefits of occupational therapy, which can include:

  • Getting support with exercises designed to improve your strength and balance to help prevent falls
  • Accessing modifications for your home to help you to complete everyday tasks more easily. These could include shower rails or seats, wheelchair ramps, a walk-in bath, adapted kitchen equipment for arthritic hands, or an alarm system to alert your loved ones in the event of a fall
  • Recognising the need for a walking stick or wheelchair, helping you to get around more easily
  • Greater peace of mind for those currently caring for you; they are likely to feel more reassured knowing you can get around your home safely, or that they’ll be alerted immediately if you do suffer a fall

It may also be suggested that you try occupational therapy group activities for elderly people, which can be a good way to share tips and experiences with other people who are in a similar position to you. These sessions might involve talks or open discussions on topics such as fall prevention exercises, and general life skills such as meal planning and managing money, all of which may require a different approach as you get older.

Arrange A Visit To A New Care Home Today

If an occupational therapy assessment has identified that you need significant adjustments to your home, or that you may benefit from support from carers, it may be time to start to think about moving into a care home.

If you’d like to see whether living in one of our care homes would be suitable for you or a loved one, contact us to arrange a visit to one of our homes across Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Leeds, or Nottingham. We’re also happy to answer any questions you may have about adjustments that can be made to your care home room to make it more suitable for your individual needs.