Contrary to popular belief, home health care and occupational therapy is not just for the elderly. It can be extraordinarily beneficial for people of all ages, and encompasses a comprehensive approach intended to help an individual improve their physical and psychosocial abilities. Life threatening illnesses and injuries can render a person immobile, but that does not mean the effects have to be permanent.
An occupational therapist is a health professional who can help people of all ages recover skills and guide individuals — particularly older adults — through “physical and cognitive changes,” as defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association.
As a caregiver, you known you cannot be there for your loved one 24/7. You may also fear the day when he or she will be unable to provide basic care for them (e.g. cooking, personal hygiene, cleaning, etc.). It’s a scary thought, which may lead you to consider placing your loved one in an assisted living scenario as a last resort. An occupational therapist can help your loved one regain the physical skills and confidence needed to age in place for a longer period of time in their own home — and on their own terms.
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With that in mind, here are just five of the benefits of home health occupational therapy:
- Fall prevention – The American Occupational Therapy Association suggests that occupational therapy can help to prevent falls. Nearly 1 out of 3 adults over 65 will sustain an injury from falling this year. In turn, the physical damage to an elderly person is generally more severe than younger individuals, especially those who are in poor health and/or are suffering from weakened immune systems. An occupational therapist can teach your loved one ways to maintain their balance and provide solutions to the common causes of most falls (e.g. leg weakness, medication side effects and hindered balance). The therapist may target certain areas more than others. If your loved one currently has a hard time walking, they will promote leg strength through walking and other muscle building activities.
- Make your home safer – Safety devices such as handrails, grab bars, and walk-in bathtubs have helped millions of people struggling with physical impairments regain a sense of living independence. A physical therapist can make environmental modification recommendations that will reduce your loved one’s chances of being injured while living on their own.
- Mental restoration – Afflictions such as Alzheimer ’s disease and dementia are often regarded as unavoidable or otherwise untreatable. Studies have shown that regular brain training exercises can promote mental functioning and reduce the effects of these conditions. Contrary to popular belief, home care occupational therapy targets mental health just as much as it does physical.
- An instrumental component of rehabilitation – The weeks and months following major surgery can be riddled with difficulties and stressors. Individuals who have recently undergone a hip or knee replacement operation may have troubles walking on their own, let alone performing normal, daily activities. Consulting an occupational therapist shortly after the procedure will facilitate the recovery process and get your loved one back on track to living like their normal self.
- Knowledge and awareness about self-care – The phrase “hand a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat forever” seems most fitting here. By giving your loved one the tools they need to live independently and empowering them with useful information. An occupational therapist can be perceived as a beacon of hope during hard times.
By formulating a strategic plan tailored for the patient’s individual needs, an occupational therapist can help that person work towards their goals of living more independently and securing gainful employment. Many people are hesitant to seek medical care, especially those that are stubborn or have doubts about the potential success of therapy.