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Occupational Therapy Helps Your Loved One Maintain Independence


April brings awareness to Occupational Therapy Month and all the unique benefits this specialized therapy provides for people of all ages.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a process that helps people in all stages of life live a fulfilling lifestyle by developing, maintaining, and recovering skills to complete daily activities. This specialized therapy can help patients prevent or cope with injury, illness, or disabilities.

The approach is unique for each patient and typically includes an individual evaluation where goals are determined and a customized plan to improve abilities is put in place. Therapy works best when it is a team effort, and so the support team—family and caregivers—are educated on the process to ensure successful outcomes.

Occupational therapy is an effective and powerful tool for seniors to stay engaged in daily activities; take a look:

Therapy Helps Seniors Maintain Independence

Losing the ability to complete simple daily tasks is a challenging part of the aging process that can affect any senior. It can be confusing, frustrating, and embarrassing—but your loved one does not have to feel this way; occupational therapy can help.

Aging can impede many physical and cognitive abilities such as walking, eating, bathing, and getting dressed. OT blends physical, mental, and psychological exercises for seniors to stay independent and active.

Improving fine and basic motor skills, strength, dexterity, and range of motion impacts the ability to complete daily tasks and can even prevent falls. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans 65+ falls every year. Though common, it should not be a normal part of aging and can be prevented with proper exercises.

Occupational Therapy Can Help Seniors with Dementia

Did you know that occupational therapy can improve symptoms of dementia including Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s?

Dementia is a collective term to describe a group of conditions characterized by impairment of memory, communication, and judgement. Signs of dementia include loss of short-term memory, ability to complete regular activities, and problem-solving skills. Occupational therapists work with family and caregivers to evaluate strengths and weaknesses and put interventions in place.

While therapy may not bring back cognitive performance, loved ones can adapt and improve daily functions. Occupational therapy can help those who have dementia by focusing on:

  • Maintenance: Therapy can provide routines and exercises that help a loved one stay independent and continue participating in daily activities.

  • Modification: Adaptations or extra support ensures a safe environment and easier transition through phases of dementia.

  • Health: A focus on overall wellness and strength leads to maximum performance in preferred activities such as knitting, walking, playing games, etc.

You can read more about the impact occupational therapy has on dementia here.

Occupational Therapy and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease appears during middle to late life stages and is caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain. The progression rate varies from person to person and can be characterized by memory loss, language problems, and changes in judgement and decision-making abilities. Seniors with Alzheimer’s forget basic information such as how to use common objects, which makes performing daily tasks increasingly difficult.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are ways occupational therapy can build skills to combat symptoms. An occupational therapist can help loved ones with Alzheimer’s adapt to an environment, maximize engagement in daily activities, promote safety, and enhance their quality of life. Here are some standard OT practices for seniors with Alzheimer’s:

  • Modify existing routines or add adaptive equipment.

  • Place step-by-step instructions for basic tasks around their environment.

  • Complete a safety evaluation of their living space to remove clutter, secure railings, or provide additional lighting.

  • Encourage activities with photos and hobbies to maintain emotional connections with family and caregivers.

You can read more about the impact occupational therapy has on Alzheimer’s disease here.

Occupational Therapy and Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Symptoms worsen over time and can lead to mental and behavioral changes, memory loss, and fatigue. Occupational therapy addresses tremors, stiffness, and decline of motor function commonly associated with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s Outcomes Project found that that people who began exercising right after a diagnosis and exercised at least 2.5 hours each week have a slower progression rate than those who delay exercise. Occupational therapy provides the appropriate assessment, interventions, and recommendations to treat your loved ones. Areas of focus include:

  • Posture: Addressing posture and proper seating can lead to successful mealtimes, handwriting, and improved motor skills. Therapists can help increase self-awareness and self-correction.

  • Eating and drinking: Therapists can recommend proper sitting posture, lighting, and adaptive equipment if necessary.

  • Fatigue management: People with Parkinson’s often have inefficient movement strategies. A therapist can review routines, restructure activities and plan regular rest periods.

  • Mobility: Therapists teach patients how to concentrate on movements, change direction, move without abrupt motions, and optimize stability.

You can read more about the impact occupational therapy has on Parkinson’s disease here.

Occupational Therapy at Tribute Senior Living

Tribute Senior Living has an onsite rehabilitation center where we offer occupational therapy through our partnership with Ageility Physical Therapy Solutions. Ageility is a team of licensed professionals “dedicated to facilitating a healthy lifestyle in senior communities.” Their experienced occupational therapists “connect body, mind, and spirit to help residents perform normal daily activities…to enhance wellbeing and quality of life.”

The OT team at Ageility conducts personalized assessments to set “challenging but attainable goals” and encourage your loved ones to stay active and engaged in life. Tribute also has a fitness center equipped with HUR exercise equipment, recumbent bikes, and the Biodex Balance System. The combined care and expertise of Ageility occupational therapists, Tribute fitness director and fitness center, help your loved ones achieve a healthy, active lifestyle without leaving the comfort of their home at Tribute. Stay tuned to learn more about senior health and fitness next month!

Contact us today to learn more about Tribute Senior Living and our OT partnership with Ageility.

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