April is Occupational Therapy Month, making this a good time to start preparing for the time of year when greater emphasis is placed on occupational therapy for seniors. As people age, it can become more difficult to do some of the same things they did with ease at a younger age, and some activities can become so difficult that seniors actually avoid them or abandon them altogether.
To at least some extent, this can be avoided through the use of occupational therapy. Physical therapy can do your body a world of good when you’re recovering from surgery or from a recent illness. Occupational therapy is a bit more intense than ordinary physical therapy, and it addresses your mental, physical, and cognitive well-being. If you commit to a good occupational therapy program, you may find that you can once again resume some of those favored activities you’ve always enjoyed. Here are some of the most important benefits you’ll realize from a regular program of occupational therapy.
Assistance for caregivers
One major benefit of working with an occupational therapist for your elderly loved one is that they will generally provide a number of recommendations and can offer assistance to family caregivers. It’s certainly not easy to assume the role of caregiver for a parent who’s aging, and all caregivers can stand some extra support.
Occupational therapists are adept at instructing caregivers in the use of techniques that will help them care for their senior charges so they don’t get confused or disoriented. It can be difficult to handle all the physical changes that a senior loved one goes through, for instance loss of memory, vision, and physical ability, as well as any personality changes. Occupational therapists can provide ways to calm down a senior who becomes agitated or anxious, and recommend home alterations that will make the household safe when no caregivers are around.
Occupational therapy can be customized
It’s a simple matter to customize a program of Occupational Therapy to the specific needs of seniors who might be suffering from dementia, memory loss, or other effects of aging. Therapists understand the use of different rehabilitation techniques that will make dealing with dementia patients much easier. One thing they can do is encourage participation in activities that enhance memory faculties, for instance playing games and solving puzzles.
An occupational therapist might make some suggestions about household life that will avoid confusion when daily tasks are addressed. This might involve limiting the number of clothing choices, installing bins that will help to organize things commonly used around the household, and even installing stop signs on doors for patients who have a tendency to wander. Since dementia patients are often quite sensitive to sounds and textures, occupational therapists will sometimes recommend specific foods that will help calm the patient, and also introduce music therapy that will soothe them when they have become stressed or anxious about something.
Reduce the risk of slips, falls, and injuries
Senior individuals are at a greatly increased risk of injury from falls since they tend to lose motor skills and a good sense of balance during the aging process. The National Council on Aging has demonstrated that 25% of Americans over the age of 65 will be involved in a serious fall every year. Falls for seniors can be much worse than those at a younger age, because younger people can often catch themselves to avoid serious injury.
If an elderly person falls, it can result in a broken wrist, a fractured hip, or even a serious head injury. During occupational therapy, seniors can learn about methods that will help to reduce their chance of falling, and they can learn about balance practice and how to strengthen their muscles. All humans experience muscle loss during aging, so rebuilding that muscle with light weights and regular exercise can be an important component of reducing the risk of serious falls as a senior.
Completing normal daily tasks
As seniors continue to age, many of the normal daily tasks they once handled with ease can become extremely difficult. Many seniors find that it’s a real chore to brush their teeth, retrieve things from a cupboard, get themselves dressed, or even just take a walk. There are a great many physical and cognitive ailments that can interfere with these activities, and cause them to become difficult to perform. That can negatively affect a person’s quality of life, contributing to mental health issues. That can lead to a senior avoiding social activities and other events because they feel inadequate, or because they’re embarrassed about their physical or mental shortcomings.
Occupational therapists can instruct seniors about certain exercises and rehabilitation techniques that will help them perform their daily tasks again. With a little bit of practice, it can become easier to put shoes on, eat meals, and cope with all the changes that are happening in a senior’s mental and physical capabilities. With regular therapy, seniors may be able to significantly enhance their flexibility, dexterity, mobility, and cognitive functions, so that all their normal daily tasks can once again be performed without difficulty.