Occupational Therapy for Activities of Daily Living
Occupational therapy is a type of rehabilitation that uses daily activities to help people of all ages live more independent and productive lives after a medical emergency. As we age, we’re more likely to have an illness, memory loss or injury. That’s why over one-third of occupational therapists work with older adults. In fact, occupational therapists are often advocates for the elderly, working with local community groups and governments to ensure each is doing their part to allow seniors to maintain as much independence as possible.
Occupational therapy for seniors has a special focus on what your loved one is still capable of doing — rather than what they can’t do — and works to help them overcome their limitations or challenges. Another part of occupational therapists’ role is educating caregivers to help families find the support and assistance they may need to continue providing the highest-quality care for their aging family member at home.
ADLs and Occupational Therapy for Seniors
While physical therapy focuses on restoring muscle strength, flexibility and range of motion, occupational therapy is key to restoring abilities to perform basic activities of daily living (ADLs), also called self-care activities. Being able to complete these ADLs successfully allows seniors to remain as independent as possible, hopefully getting them back to their pre-illness or pre-injury lifestyle.
To help with these goals, occupational therapy can incorporate adaptive tools to help your loved one do meaningful activities that improve life skills and promote participation in everyday life. Occupational therapy also uses education, rehabilitation techniques and exercise to encourage the relearning and improvement of fine motor skills, strength and dexterity.
When starting out, an occupational therapist will evaluate and assess your loved one’s condition to determine which types of activities can be done without any assistance, which need some assistance, and which can’t be completed at all. They’ll then develop a personalized care plan based on the amount and type of help needed, as well as create a plan to provide special services and therapeutic interventions.
Some of the activities of daily living occupational therapy helps improve or restore include:
- Eating and feeding
- Bathing and showering
- Mobility — getting up and down, moving around while performing activities
- Personal hygiene/grooming — brushing teeth, washing and combing hair, etc.
- More complex daily activities like cooking, writing, cleaning, etc.
Occupational therapists can also help create a safe home environment for your loved one to return to after a stay in a skilled nursing facility. The therapist will visit their home and note where modifications may be needed to make life easier for them. Possible suggestions can include installing grab bars or a seat in the shower in a bathroom, recommending assistive devices, or detailing home improvements that will help your family member complete tasks and live as safely as possible.
As your loved one improves, their occupational therapist will regularly observe which goals are being met and which are not, and adjust your loved one’s personalized care plan if needed.