How Occupational Therapy Can Greatly Improve Seniors’ Quality of Life

Senior exercising with an occupational therapist

April is Occupational Therapy Month, and it’s the ideal time for senior adults to consider the many ways that occupational therapy can improve important life functions and enhance their quality of life.

Sometimes confused with physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) is a separate healing discipline with its own specific purpose and goals for the individual’s recovery.

Occupational Therapy Helps Restore Key Functional Activities of Daily Living 

Different from physical therapy, which uses exercise to stabilize and strengthen parts of the body, occupational therapy helps older adults perform specific functional activities that are highly important to their lifestyles. This can include anything that gives the person enjoyment or purpose in life and enables them to function to the best of their ability – whether it’s gardening, playing golf, climbing stairs, or performing certain work-related tasks.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)occupational therapy enables seniors and others to perform the activities they want and need to do. An occupational therapist will evaluate your situation and, with input from you (and perhaps your family or care provider), develop individualized goals that allow you to resume or pursue your valued tasks. After you establish goals with your occupational therapist, you will work together on a specific treatment plan to help improve or maintain your ability to perform daily activities and reach your goals for getting back to your normal life.

Says Susan Irrgang, RN, NHA, MBA, Executive Director, at Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA, Occupational therapy has proven to be a cost-effective component of modern rehabilitation that can significantly improve the quality of life of seniors. We see daily examples of this with our own occupational therapy team, which functions as an essential part of our highly successful RenewAll Short-Term & Medically Complex Care program. It is so gratifying to see so many individuals benefiting from OT and returning to the things they enjoy that give their lives meaning and purpose.”

 7 Important Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Seniors

As illustrated by this AOTA videooccupational therapy can improve the lives of seniors and many others groups, as the benefits of OT are many and varied.

Sources such as Occupational Therapy for Seniors – What are the Key Benefits?Could occupational therapy enhance your quality of life?,   Occupational therapy is cost effective, significantly improves quality of life for seniorsand Occupational Therapy for the Elderly also highlight the multiple ways occupational therapy improves the quality of life for older adults. Examples include:

  1. Overcoming obstacles in performing daily tasks – Occupational therapy assists seniors by helping them overcome the challenges they face in performing favored functions such as golf or routine daily tasks such as cooking. Occupational therapists ask, “What matters to you,” in helping seniors restore valued functions so they can return to their preferred lifestyles.
  2. Improving physical health – By helping them restore their preferred life activities, occupational therapy enables seniors to remain active, which promotes their health and well-being through a more engaged lifestyle. By using occupational therapy to overcome specific functional limitations, seniors also regain a sense of self-confidence and independence that also promotes health.
  3. Enhancing emotional well-being – Senior adults can become depressed when their functionality is limited, and they struggle to perform daily tasks. Occupational therapists provide positive emotional support, as they are trained to help patients see beyond their dysfunctions and focus on what they CAN do.
  4. Preventing falls – As a leading cause of injury and death among seniors, falls are a major cause for concern for older Americans. Occupational therapists are ideally suited to help seniors by identifying preventive steps that can help them avoid slips and falls while remaining active.
  5. Creating safer living spaces – Occupational therapists are also specially trained to help seniors and their families make home modifications that create a safer and more functional living environment. This can be particularly useful for seniors who have paralysis or are wheelchair-bound.
  6. Improving self-care – Occupational therapy improves the self-care abilities of older adults who may need help with tasks such as personal hygiene or managing important financial information. OT professionals teach organizational skills such as the use of lists and memory recall, as well as how to perform activities that enable seniors to more effectively manage their everyday lives.
  7. Assisting caregivers – By enabling seniors to live more active, independent lifestyles, occupational therapists also remove some of the burdens of their family caregivers – many of whom are very busy with their own lives. Occupational therapists work individually with seniors to create customized rehab plans that overcome their functional challenges and also reduce the demands on their caregivers.

By understanding the role of occupational therapy and the valuable contributions it makes to seniors’ quality of life, both older Americans and their family members will be in the best position to make informed decisions about the most appropriate recovery and rehabilitation options when needed.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you might have, and to stay current on a variety of other senior health and care topics by viewing the latest articles on our website. 

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “How Occupational Therapy Can Greatly Improve Seniors’ Quality of Life,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

 Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing carerestorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

 Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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