Occupational therapy (OT) is a blend of mental, physical, and psychological exercises to enable patients to perform everyday activities. These tasks include basic activities such as driving, getting dressed, eating, and even walking!
OT interventions commonly include helping children or adults with disabilities, mental health issues, or severe injuries that may impede their physical and cognitive capabilities.
Here, we’ll specifically take a look at the benefits of OT for seniors and the disorders that it can be used to contain.
No two patients are the same. As a result, the behavior and exercises of the therapist change, depending on the patient’s needs. For example, for patients with mental disabilities, the exercises focus on cognition, while physical rehabilitation includes exercises to revive the affected areas.
Occupational therapists with a specialty in geriatrics assist the elderly by analyzing the patient and finding out what might be best suited for their emotional, physical, environmental, and psychological needs. Specialized exercises are then designed to support the functions of whatever patients need help with.
Following are the key benefits of occupational therapy for the elderly.
1. Occupational Therapy Keeps Arthritis at Bay
With a few well-advised and relevant modifications to the home and workplace, occupational therapists can help seniors tackle arthritis and continue performing their tasks normally.
Arthritis can be defined as “joint inflammation.” An occupational therapist will properly analyze their patient to determine the type of arthritis and then take relevant action. Arthritis patients may feel pain and discomfort when moving the affected joints. Therapists will help patients by helping them use their hands differently or change their ‘resting’ positions to more comfortable positions. This will allow them to perform heavier jobs with more ease.
The use of affected joints in a different manner will also help them perform tasks with fewer resting breaks.
2. Increasing Movement Range through Occupational Therapy
One of the more common and helpful techniques used by therapists is “range of motion” (ROM) exercises. ROM exercises do exactly what the name suggests: increase the patient’s range of motion while decreasing pain and stiffness. This is particularly helpful in the case of elderly patients who have worn out their ligaments, have stiff joints, or are ailed by arthritis.
ROM exercises vary, depending on the affected body part and any underlying condition. Two examples of ROM exercises include Active Range of Motion (AROM) and Active Assisted Range Of Motion (AAROM). Both help the user by allowing them to stretch their own muscles, the only difference being that of with or without assistance, respectively.
3. How Occupational Therapy Improves Vision
Not all loss of vision is irreparable, and with help from occupational therapists, the elderly can bring back their lost vision. Much like physical therapy, vision therapy includes exercises for the eyes and brain to improve vision without surgical treatment.
OT can help elderly people with eye-conditions such as double vision, lazy eye, balance, dizziness, strabismus, and reading. The therapist starts by identifying whether the damage is repairable or not, after which they give the patient treatments tailored to their needs.
4. Improving Memory & Cognitive Skills
With age, it is common for the brain cells to deteriorate, leading to forgetfulness or dementia in severe cases. OT can help patients retain and sharpen their memory and cognitive skills at any stage of memory loss; however, the earlier the treatment begins, the better. Solving crossword puzzles and reading books are prime examples of cognitive exercises.
In later stages of memory loss, occupational therapists focus on improving the quality of life with sensory stimulation and simplified activities. Royal honey is also used to help increase brain function.
5. Coping With Chronic Pain
Chronic pain continues beyond its usefulness as a warning. It might be due to several factors, the most common of them being the normal aging of the affected bones and joints. Other causes include nerve damage, traumatic injuries, injuries that fail to heal properly, etc.
Chronic pain can result in disempowerment, mood swings, and loss of control over daily activities. Occupational therapists use managed approaches to provide patients with adaptive ways of going about their daily tasks. Methods that an occupational therapist might use include:
- Proactive pain control
- Safe body mechanics and ergonomics
- Neuromuscular re-education
- Muscle tension reduction
- Communication skills training (because chronic pain is an invisible disability)
- Pacing activities
These therapeutic exercises can be conducted at home, work, or a clinic, based on the patient’s preference.
It’s no secret that performing ordinary tasks becomes more difficult with age. Faltering eyesight, loss of memory, aging bones and many other factors add up to make life more difficult for the elderly. For such people, occupational therapy is a good option as it leads to not only a healthier lifestyle, but also an easier one! If you or a loved one would benefit from occupational therapy, contact us today or visit a PT Solutions clinic near you and learn about the PTS Advantage. Our occupational therapists are dedicated to helping their patients get their independence back.