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7 key benefits of Occupational Therapy for the elderly

An occupational therapist is a health professional. He bases his practice on the link between human activity and health. Its functions are to maintain, restore, and enable social activities in a secure, autonomous, and efficient manner. Prevent, reduce, or eliminate situations of disability by taking into account the lifestyle of people and their environment. There are 2 “types” of occupational therapists. Those working in a center or hospital, they take care of rehabilitation and advise and assess the needs for technical aids and home improvement. Usually, this is within the context of returning home. However, occupational therapy can translate to the elderly also. Older adults can often exhibit signs of neurological damage, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s sometimes, it is just a natural progression that inhibits them from thinking and reacting as sharply as they used to. Stroke is another common occurrence in people over 65 and may need additional therapy to aid them in their home life once again.  

An occupational therapist is becoming in higher demand today, as their work is becoming more essential among the elderly. It is vital to optimise the home support of a dependent person and upstream in the context of prevention and aging well. Indeed, it can act in a preventive way within the framework of an occupational therapist diagnosis at home before the loss of autonomy is diagnosed. By observing the habits of the elderly and putting them in a situation, it can make them aware of the potential risks existing in their home. Also, the recommendations resulting from the report drawn up by the occupational therapist will enable them to improve their daily lives. 

The intervention of occupational therapy in a mental health context has many advantages. It enables the patient to be equipped to cope with the limitations he encounters by having a better awareness of them and knowing the best ways to compensate them. It should be understood that occupational therapy cannot cure mental health disorders, but it is highly beneficial when it is part of an interdisciplinary intervention. In short, it allows the elderly person to flourish in the different aspects of his life and to lead an active life in society. Here are seven key benefits of occupational therapy:

1. Evaluate and provide insights into the elderly person’s habits.

A therapist can evaluate the difficulties encountered daily by a person with a disability using psychological evaluations, osteoarticular, muscular, neurological, functional, autonomy assessments, etc. They can also evaluate his patient’s living environment and propose the necessary arrangements installation of a lifting bar in the bathtub, widening of the space of the doors to allow an armchair to pass through, etc. This allows both the elderly person and their relatives to look into any changes that need to be made. This may include the need to be moved to more secure premises, such as a nursing home. It gives the family insight into any hazards or dangers, which is the first step in offering them a secure future.

2. Prevents muscular degeneration and staves off other diseases.

Occupational therapy for people with any muscular problem, including arthritis and inflammatory diseases, can focus on reducing pain, reducing swelling, reducing or slowing joint damage. This helps people stay active as long as possible and increases their general well-being. Mild or moderate activity and rest are important physical activity helps maintain muscle tone and strength and a good general physical condition. It is recommended that in periods where there is no inflammation, physical exercise be performed, and in periods of high inflammation, remain at rest. This allows the occupational therapist to form a plan that is suited to each person as an individual, depending on any pre-existing conditions. If there are no pre-existing conditions, then occupational therapy can indeed work to stave off the first signs and symptoms of arthritis in older age. Movement is key to many geriatric conditions, and therefore, it offers a very positive outcome. Their ranges in movements can also become heightened, which may assist them in being able to perform more tasks efficiently over time, such as washing, bathing, shopping, and even recreational activities such as gardening. 

3. It can improve visual impairments. 

Impaired vision is a common problem among elderly people. Sometimes, they have to deal with cataracts and glaucoma. Sometimes, the wear and tear of the eyes means that they struggle to read things, which can interfere with their everyday lives (e.g., following cooking instructions, turning the oven to the correct temperature, seeing who is at the door.) If they wear glasses, they can optimise their vision with occupational therapy. The objective of occupational therapy applied to visual neurorehabilitation is to enhance aspects related to people’s autonomy and quality of life who have visual disturbances. They are in charge of the design and supervision of activities aimed at working on visual deficits, training of optical and non-optical aids to promote functional autonomy in the different areas of the occupation, and the education of techniques and modifications necessary for this. Visual improvements may also contribute to less falls or accidents around the house. 

4. Boosts their memory. 

Memory problems can occur at any age but they are more than likely to encounter short-term memory issues as they age. Considering the types of memory that exist, broadly speaking we can find three types:

  • Sensory memory: It is the one that records an impression of sensory information captured by our senses.
  • Short-term memory: Also called operative memory, it is the one that retains the information generated in the environment but with a limited capacity. If the information is not kept, it disappears in 45 seconds.
  • Long-term memory: This type of memory can store information permanently, presenting an unlimited storage capacity.

Occupational therapy can look at assisting them with becoming involved with logical tasks, games and other activities that help them use their mind and ultimately boost their memory and thinking capacity. Preserving their memory is vital for as long as possible and can even help reduce the risk of developing early dementia.

5. Offers assistance with chronic pain. 

Chronic pain can be due to several factors. The most common of these is the normal aging of the affected bones and joints. Other causes include nerve damage, stroke, injuries from falls, or a chronic degenerative disease. Chronic pain can lead to loss of power and control over daily activities and in seniors, this can leave them feeling vulnerable. Occupational therapists use managed approaches to provide patients with adaptive ways to perform their daily tasks. This is vital to ensure that they are being provided with adequate assistance to help relieve them of their chronic pain, where possible. 

They also seek to identify specific activities or behaviours that can aggravate pain, as well as suggest alternatives, teaching methods to reduce the frequency and duration of pain episodes. They will implement therapeutic interventions that reduce the dependence and use of pain medications. They will facilitate the best functioning of daily activities at home and collaborate with the patient’s health and professional teams, such as physiotherapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, to determine the best treatment. They will also recommend and teach the patient to adapt and use the equipment to reduce pain and carry out tasks such as reaching for objects, dressing, bathing, etc.

6. It improves strength and helps them adapt to new ways.

Numerous studies prove the importance of physical exercise in the elderly to slow down the physiological aging process and improve exercise capacity and general health despite age or disability. For strength building in the elderly, physical exercise is divided into four categories: aerobic exercises, strength training, flexibility and balance and coordination. This will give them the chance to learn how to deal with issues that they may have previously struggled with. As they learn to build their strength up and physical elements, they will be able to adapt to these new ways and appreciate that there are ways around doing things and that their independence can be retained, but with the help they need. Changes are not easy to deal with, but it is more than possible with an occupational therapist by their side. 

7. Gives peace of mind and assistance to the caregiver.

Perhaps the most vital benefit is the last benefit. The ability to offer caregivers some support and peace of mind that their loved one is being given opportunities to continue thriving, even in their golden years. It provides them respite to catch up on their own rest and daily activities as well as making them more aware of any problems and dealing with them when necessary. The options and benefits are endless, and with the correct coping strategies and methods to assist, the caregiver can be armed well enough to continue their work with a better structure and mindset.

For more information on occupational therapy in older adults as well as a range of other services, please refer to our website https://www.homecaring.com.au and get in touch with us today.

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