Occupational Therapy provides support to people who, due to an injury, medical condition or a disability, find it hard to do everyday things – i.e. the things that ‘occupy’ our time. It is provided by a trained allied health professional called an occupational therapist (often shortened to an OT) who works with the person to help them maintain or improve their independence.
Here’s a quick guide on what occupational therapy is, what benefits it offers, and how an OT functional assessment works.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapy enables people to participate in everyday activities that are meaningful to them. This covers a wide range of things, from taking a shower and preparing meals to catching public transport, enjoying leisure activities or finding paid work.
The ultimate goal is to help people live as independently as possible, so they can maximise their personal productivity, wellbeing and quality of life.
Who can benefit from Occupational Therapy?
People of all ages can benefit from seeing an occupational therapist, but it is especially helpful if you are living with a condition, disability or injury that impacts your ability to do everyday tasks and the activities you enjoy. This can include:
- medical conditions (e.g. arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, dementia)
- age-related issues, such as problems with balance and coordination, hearing loss or poor vision
- mental health conditions (e.g. chronic depression and anxiety)
- physical and neurological disabilities (e.g. spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy)
- developmental delays, sensory disorder and learning difficulties
- autism and intellectual disabilities
- injury or illness (e.g. you may need occupational therapy to help you regain the ability to do everyday tasks after a stroke or hip injury)
You don’t need a referral to make an appointment with an occupational therapist, although your doctor, case manager or support coordinator may recommend that you see an OT, if they feel you can benefit from one.
You can receive occupational therapy services through your home care package or NDIS funding. For more information on how to use your funding for occupational therapy with Home Caring, please get in touch. We’re happy to help!
What qualifications does an Occupational Therapist in Australia have?
Since 2012, all occupational therapists providing services in Australia are required to be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHRPA). It is important to see a registered OT, as they will have a degree in occupational therapy and be governed by the agency’s quality standards.
All occupational therapists provided by Home Caring are fully accredited and trained. You can check if an OT is registered or make a complaint on the AHRPA website.
What does an Occupational Therapist do?
Occupational therapists provide support in many different ways, for a wide range of people. Here are some of the types of support you can expect from an OT.
- Assess your current abilities and help you develop plans to maintain independence at home
- Help prevent falls by reviewing your home for hazards and helping you improve your ability to safely perform everyday tasks
- Provide assistive technology that makes living at home easier, such as shower rails, wheelchairs, pressure care mattresses and other aids
- Improve the way you move and function by prescribing adaptive strategies (e.g. teaching you joint protection techniques)
- Plan for your discharge from hospital if you are admitted for illness or injury
- Suggest strategies to help you maintain a meaningful daily routine
- Modify your living environment so you can live safely at home while enjoying quality of life (e.g. improving accessibility)
- Conduct driving assessments to assess your ability to drive safely, independently and legally
For people living with a disability:
- Provide assistive technology, aids and equipment to help you live more comfortably and perform daily tasks
- Assess your living environment and recommend changes to make life easier (e.g. installing ramps, providing non-slip options on flooring, adapting bathroom or kitchen layouts)
- Organise vehicle modifications or other transport assistance you may need
- Help with daily living or personal care activities, such as showering, grooming, toileting and eating
- Assess your housing situation (e.g. for people who may require Specialist Disability Accommodation)
- Help manage sensory inputs in your environment so you feel calm and settled
- Provide support with accessing community activities and groups
- Support multi-step activities such as budgeting, planning your schedule and shopping
- Help develop coping strategies for those living with mental health issues
- Provide support and strategies for dealing with stress and emotions
- Develop communication skills
- Provide help with structuring daily life and connecting with the community
- Suggest ways to engage in activities that you find meaningful
- Help you use familiar activities as coping mechanisms (e.g. cooking, listening to music)
- Addressing your sensory needs (e.g. prescribing deep pressure touch to feel calm and grounded)
- Increasing productivity and capacity through graded tasks and activities
- Support children living with disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy or spina bifida
- Work with children who are experiencing development delays
- Provide therapy for sensory disorder or attention issues, centred around play and learning
- Help with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
- Educate parents and carers on how to help children develop
- Provide support with cognition, memory and planning
- Build self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment
- Help children master basic life skills such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, having a bath, feeding themselves
- Work with people after they have experienced an injury or illness, so they can regain independence in everyday life
- Plan and support your re-entry into the work force
- Help those who have had a stroke to overcome difficulties and limitations – for example, an OT may prescribe activities to practice or suggest new ways of doing things
- Set goals that can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks
What is a functional assessment?
A significant part of occupational therapy is working out what a someone’s strengths and weaknesses are, so that an OT – and the person’s wider care team – can offer meaningful support for daily living.
This is where an OT functional assessment comes in. If you have a diagnosed medical condition or a disability that impacts your ability to do certain tasks, you may be referred to an occupational therapist for a functional assessment. This is a one-on-one consultation that usually takes place in your own home. An occupational therapist will ask you questions and evaluate your ability to function in different aspects of life, such as performing personal care tasks, getting out and about in your local area or managing your medication.
An OT functional assessment usually looks at:
- your medical and social history
- communication skills
- your home environment and how you function in it
- recreation, hobbies and sleep/leisure habits
- education and employment
- basic self-care skills such as mobility, showering, dressing, grooming, toileting and eating
- if relevant to the person’s social situation and stage in life, self-management skills such as budgeting, shopping, laundry, transport, meal preparation and cooking
Once an OT has conducted a functional assessment with you, they will write a comprehensive report on your level of functioning and highlight areas where you could benefit from support. This report can be used to help you set personal goals, as well as inform any environmental modifications that need to be made to support daily living.
If you need help organising an OT functional assessment, Home Caring can be of assistance. Please get in touch to find out how we can support your needs.
Occupational Therapy and the NDIS
Occupational therapy can help people with a disability live as independently as possible – whether that means supporting you with daily tasks or helping you engage with the community.
If you are an NDIS participant, you can use your funding to receive occupational therapy with Home Caring. For more details, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a FREE consultation.
If you are not yet an NDIS participant, you may need to undergo an OT assessment as part of your application. This is to show how your condition or disability affects daily living and your participation in the community.
Once you have undergone an OT assessment, the therapist writes a comprehensive report that identifies any support you may need. This report can influence whether you are approved for NDIS funding, as well as inform any decisions made around the allocation of your funds into different categories.
Occupational Therapy and home care packages
Occupational therapy is highly beneficial as we age, whether we have a chronic condition that limits what we can do, or need assistance with living safely and independently in our own home.
Depending on the level you receive, you can receive occupational therapy services using your government Home Care Package, as well as home modifications, assistive technology and equipment that helps you live more independently at home.
For more information on how to access occupational therapy services using your home care package, please get in touch with us at Home Caring for your free consultation.