18 November 2021
What are the benefits of occupational therapy?
When we have an accident or suffer a stroke, getting the help we need is important. And when we age, certain everyday skills can deteriorate. This is where occupational therapy comes in, a form of therapy that treats injured, ill, or disabled patients so they can develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills that are necessary for daily living and working. In this article, we will inform people about how occupational therapy can help them and their loved ones during times of difficulty.
Improved independence & mobility
Keeping independent is important to all of us. After an accident or when our mobility decreases with age, solutions like stair lifts at home can be a big help but occupational therapy is also an important component. Occupational therapy can aid those whose independence is at stake by helping them improve mobility and to complete ordinary, everyday tasks that have become more difficult due to injury, illness, or disability. While tasks like bathing, cooking, and dressing may seem straightforward, remaining independent is very difficult when our bodies no longer allow us to perform them with ease.
Through techniques and practice, occupational therapy is designed to tackle these problems and improve a person’s everyday skills so they can learn to cope on their own. With functional mobility restored to an operational level, getting on with those daily tasks becomes so much easier.
Explaining in more detail how occupational therapy can help those with limited mobility, Sarah, a licensed occupational therapist from the blog My OT Spot, shared with us: “For people with limited mobility, occupational therapy can play an important role in addressing the physical deficits of the person through therapeutic intervention (via strengthening, transfer training, balance intervention, and ADL retraining). This can improve the person’s mobility long-term, making day to day mobility and self-care tasks safer and easier for the person.
“If mobility is still difficult for the individual, occupational therapists will also provide education to the person and/or their caregivers on adaptive equipment to make mobility safe and effective, reducing the risk of falls. This can include education on walkers, wheelchairs, toilet risers, bath seats, grab bars and, of course, stair lifts for those who have to access multiple floors.
“When combining this physical intervention and patient education, occupational therapy is essential for people experiencing new physical/mobility limitations to increase their functional independence, mobility and safety needed during their everyday tasks.”
Help with vision loss
Loss of vision can become fairly common later in life and this can provide a major obstacle to our quality of life, creating possible obstacles to complete activities that were once simple everyday tasks. Occupational therapy can help those with vision loss, however, with therapists conducting activities with their patients designed to improve things like perceptual vision, pattern detection, and overall visual awareness.
TRIO Rehabilitation & Wellness Solutions explains: “Changes in vision can occur with eye disease and after a brain injury or a stroke. These changes create blind spots in our field of vision. Visual changes can affect a person’s ability to walk confidently or read. Occupational therapy can teach visual adaptive techniques such as scanning and pre-reading strategies to improve performance and overall experience when reading.”
Enhanced cognitive skills
When our cognitive skills falter, such as memory, concentration, and problem-solving, performing daily tasks can become very difficult. Occupational therapists can help their patients to improve these skills when necessary to enhance the daily life of individuals with cognitive impairment.
An occupational therapist will look to work with the patient in order to address cognition in how it relates to those necessary functions for everyday living. For example, the therapist will look at what cognitive skills a person might need to pay bills, keep a schedule, or make a successful return to work, such as organisation and concentration. Then the therapist will help the patient practice those skills with the end result being cognitive improvement to a level that means you can accomplish the necessary tasks of life.
Helps with a return to home life
After an injury or illness and time spent in the hospital, transitioning back to life at home can be daunting. For some people, their lives will have changed completely, unable to operate in the way they did before. Occupational therapy can play a crucial role in making the return to home life easier. Not only can the therapist provide emotional support and repair necessary skills, but they can also advise on equipment solutions to make home life easier. If your home is no longer suitable for your needs, they can make organisational suggestions to work with your condition while your therapy transitions from the hospital to the home.
Support for families
Families and caregivers spend a lot of time providing care and will find the support offered by occupational therapists to be a great benefit. Those who are the primary caregivers for their parents will know full well the emotional and physical toll it can take. An occupational therapist can provide training to caregivers, helping them to understand the patient’s condition and teach the caregiver healthy coping strategies. If your parent has recently returned from the hospital, the therapist will be able to walk you and the patient through daily tasks, offering advice and recommendations that will make life for everyone easier.
Enjoyment of hobbies
When our bodies fail us, sometimes it can result in the loss of a hobby that we are no longer able to perform. The ability to perform essential everyday tasks isn’t enough to retain a good quality of life, as humans, we need those little things that bring joy and satisfaction. Occupational therapy can help recover the skills necessary to enjoy such pastimes, bringing much happiness back to our lives in the process. Jo, an independent occupational therapist from the blog JB Occupational Therapy, shares an example of how this can work:
“You’ve got a Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder and it causes problems with your hands. You love arts and crafts but it’s causing you too much pain. As an OT I might provide you with a few hand exercises to strengthen your unstable joints, I could also help you find adaptive crafting tools or splints and teach you how to pace your crafting. The aim here would be to get you crafting again. Not just because you like it, but because the activity itself is good for your mental health and forms an important part of who you are.”
Without an effective way of managing pain, getting on with daily life can become extremely challenging and demoralising. When pain isn’t managed, our bodies naturally try to compensate in other areas which can lead to further issues.
The good news is that an occupational therapist can help you to make little changes and adopt new techniques that can be truly transformative. Your therapist can teach you about things like incorrect body positioning and how this can lead to increased pain for existing conditions. You will be taught stretching techniques and exercises that can improve mobility and strengthen joints which help make life more comfortable.
The benefits of occupational therapy
- Improved independence
- Enhanced cognitive skills
- Help with vision loss
- Helps with a return to home life
- Support for families
- Enjoyment of hobbies
- Pain management
If you think occupational therapy can benefit you or someone you know, reach out to your doctor or an independent therapist. Stairlifts can also be hugely beneficial in improving quality of life and promoting independence. Please get in touch if a stairlift might make your life easier.
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