I'll Take Occupational Therapy for $100, Alex

April is Occupational Therapy Month and Sound Options invites occupational therapist, Natalie Anderson, OTR/L, CAPS, to describe how OTs contribute to productive aging and increase the quality of life for older adults.

I have been a practicing occupational therapist for over a quarter of century and I still find it difficult to form a concise description when asked, “What is occupational therapy?” This is in part because it encompasses so much. Ironically, as I sit down to write this article, one of categories on the game show Jeopardy is “Occupational Therapy.” So between me and Alex Trebek, let’s talk about how occupational therapy can benefit the older adult.

Occupational therapy is therapy based on performing meaningful activities of daily living, also referred to as ADLs, especially to enable or enhance participation in these activities despite impairments or limitations due to injury, illness, disability or social and environmental circumstances. Occupational therapists (OTs) are experts in addressing physical disabilities, aging, psychosocial adjustments, home safety, activity analysis, and injury prevention and can link these skills with how every day activities are performed to increase independence.

Do you have difficulty getting dressed because of decreased flexibility, painful joints, or muscle weakness? Are you avoiding bathing or showering because you don’t trust your balance?  Are you determined to remain in your home and be as independent as possible including caring for your pet, preparing a meal, doing the laundry or playing games and having fun with the grandchildren?  OTs can help find solutions to address these meaningful everyday activities, or occupations.

“I’ll take Occupational Therapy for $100, Alex”

“These three keys are essential for adults to remain in their home as they age.”

“What is, Fall Prevention, Home Modification, and Engaging in Purposeful Activity?!”

“That is correct!”

Fall Prevention

One of the biggest requests of OTs in home care is to make sure the home is safe to avoid falls.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention rates falls as the #1 reason for non-fatal unintentional injuries in the senior population accounting for 62% of all injuries. 50% of these falls are due to environmental factors in the home. Everyone knows a story of a friend or loved one that was doing great at home until she fell. OTs can teach exercises and safe ways to complete ADL’s to maintain balance.

Home Modification

OTs are experts at looking at home safety and recommending modifications or equipment to perform tasks easier, reduce accidents, and support independent living.  Maybe it is purchasing safety equipment for the bathroom or moving the placement of the furniture in the bedroom so more turning space is available when using a walker. Often how the home was setup when you moved in doesn’t serve the way you now live 30 years later.  OTs can look at the home with a different perspective and offer recommendations for safety and comfort.

Engagement in Purposeful Activity

Multiple studies prove over and over that engagement in activity with a feeling of a sense of purpose in life contributes to successful aging in older adults. Activities, or occupations, are part of life; they describe who we are and how we feel about ourselves and they help bring meaning to life.  OTs can look at the activities that are important to each individual and suggest modifications or adaptions as needed to ensure participation, whether it is socializing with your favorite gals at the monthly book club, going out to dinner, organizing decade’s worth of photos that have been piling up in shoeboxes or organizing that workbench in the garage.  OTs can find a way.

Natalie Anderson, OTR/L, CAPS has enjoyed a 26 year career in the Puget Sound region in healthcare management and as an Occupational Therapist. Her experience spans all continuums of the healthcare setting including acute care hospital settings, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient care, skilled nursing facilities, and the home health setting. She is currently a clinical instructor at the School of Occupational Therapy at the University of Puget Sound. Natalie’s specialties have shaped her services for individuals with neurological diagnoses, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke, and individuals with functional deficits as a result of a chronic disease or musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain. The demographics of our communities continue to age and overwhelmingly clients want to remain in their homes as long as feasibly possible. Thus, her motivation for founding OTPlus. Natalie Anderson is excited to partner with Sound Options to offer OT services. For more information and to sign up to receive monthly articles from OTPlus on ‘all things OT’, visit www.OTPlus.net

Published on April 2, 2015.