Providing the best care for a dependent elderly parent means assembling a team of experienced professionals and dedicated family members to work together. These supportive people usually include a family caregiver, family members, close friends, health care experts, elderly care providers, and senior service groups. However, one person that can also contribute is an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy can certainly benefit dependent seniors by teaching them how to overcome daily challenges and modify their approach to life.
What does an Occupational Therapist Do?
Occupational therapists are trained professionals that focus on teaching daily skills to elderly and disabled adults that have lost the ability for some reason. Common reasons for diminished skills include conditions like arthritis, stroke or diabetes. Recent surgery, chronic disease, and age-related conditions can also rob a senior of their ability to do simple tasks for themselves. An occupational therapist works with them to find new ways to perform old tasks.
Among the important things that occupational therapists do is how they empower the elderly adult by teaching them how to do basic tasks with their current condition. For example, if a senior with severe arthritis in their hands cannot hold a toothbrush well, the occupational therapist can show them a new way to do it and introduce them to an adaptive toothbrush with a thicker handle that they can grasp. Similarly, an occupational therapist might talk about switching sink handles from twist knobs to a single lever for the senior.
Is an Occupational Therapist the same as an elderly care service provider?
Occupational therapists should not be mistaken for elderly care providers. They usually work in clinics, hospitals or for organizations that make house calls. Elderly care providers do laundry, cleaning and meal preparation, as well as help seniors with bathing, dressing and grooming daily. Even if an elderly person is seeing an occupational therapist, they will still need the help of an elderly care provider as they examine what they might need help with and what they can do on their own.
Working with an occupational therapist can help elderly adults to feel less dependent on others. These small victories are important for their self-esteem, especially as they see their body’s abilities diminishing. Occupational therapists and elderly care providers both want what is best for the aging adult, so it makes sense they might work together to set goals and work to achievement.
Occupational therapy is especially attractive for family caregivers who want their elderly parent to age at home, supported by family, friends and elderly care providers. Many seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, but sometimes their physical limitations make that impossible without help. By adding an occupational therapist to the senior’s support team. They are going to do everything possible to help the elderly person restore their self-esteem and maximize their abilities in taking care of themselves.