There is no denying the biological process of aging. However, preventive measures can help keep your mind and body in better condition. Occupational therapy is a proactive approach to meeting the physical and mental challenges seniors face, so they can continue to thrive in Independent Living. But does occupational therapy work, and is it really worth it? Let’s take a look.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a branch of health care that focuses on helping individuals solve problems that prevent them from doing the things that matter to them. Typically, occupational therapists help people regain their full ability to be productive and perform self-care and leisure activities.
Simply put, occupational therapy teaches people how to adapt. If an individual has a condition or injury hindering their ability to function fully at home, work, or school, occupational therapy helps them learn how to work through that issue. Sometimes, occupational therapy treatment consists of teaching the individual how to use assistive devices to allow them to function better.
Occupational therapy isn’t just for seniors — individuals with an illness or injury can also benefit from it. However, occupational therapy is often recommended for seniors because, as people get older, they may have physical or mental changes that impact daily living.
Most importantly, occupational therapy works. A randomized clinical trial on efficacy found that seniors receiving occupational therapy had an overall improvement in their psychological well-being and their feelings of self-efficiency.
4 Primary Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors
Overall, occupational therapy offers four primary benefits for seniors:
1. Helps People Overcome Daily Struggles
As people age, self-care and daily tasks can become increasingly difficult. Activities as simple as walking, bathing, or eating can start to feel more challenging. Many older adults experience arthritis and find their joints hurt too much to hold items, or they might find it difficult to climb stairs.
An occupational therapist can help seniors learn how to get around their challenges so that they can keep up with those essential daily functions. For example, someone with arthritis might be given exercises to lessen their pain and strengthen their muscles.
Overall, seniors are taught exercises to improve their fine and gross motor skills, agility, strength, and range of motion to enhance their ability to take on daily activities. These are significant improvements that aid with the ability to continue living independently.
2. Helps Prevent Falls
One of the most significant concerns seniors have is falling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that older adults experience about 36 million falls annually. One out of every five falls results in an injury.
As a result, a major focus for occupational therapy sessions with seniors is to teach seniors methods to prevent falls or adapt to life after a fall. To do this, occupational therapists may:
- Improve home environments to prevent falls, such as installing railings and nonslip mats
- Recommend the use of a cane or mobility device
- Help individuals engage in post-fall strengthening activities and balance improvement
- Help individuals rebuild confidence after a fall
3. Assists People With Dementia
Approximately one in three seniors develop Alzheimer’s or dementia in their lifetime. Dementia is a challenging condition to live with while maintaining independence. A senior with dementia may struggle to remember how to care for themselves or how to do simple activities, such as cooking and driving.
Occupational therapy can help by engaging seniors in memory-enhancing activities and teaching caregivers certain techniques. An occupational therapist might:
- Teach an individual to adapt their schedule to complete most tasks in the morning (as dementia tends to worsen later in the day)
- Create little reminders around the house on how and when to complete tasks
- Practice basic tasks with the senior repeatedly to improve their memory
- Adjust the home to make it safer and easier to navigate
- Educate caregivers on supporting their loved one with dementia (such as setting out clothes on the bed and not moving items from their usual spots)
4. Improves Quality of Life
Occupational therapy identifies all the struggles a senior might face and helps address them. Through occupational therapy, a person can remain more independent and safe. Not only can occupational therapy have an impact on strength and ability, it can also provide that much needed sense of comfort and security for older adults in knowing that they can live safely in their own space. Occupational therapy has many benefits, all of which add up to an improved quality of life for seniors.
The Haven at Brandermill Woods Is Here to Help
The Haven at Brandermill Woods offers occupational therapy to residents in need. Aging comes with challenges, but quality of life can be maintained with the right help. Contact us at (804) 744-1173 to see how we can help you or a loved one lead a full, rich life in retirement.