- Ann Hollander
What is an occupational therapist?
Eating, dressing, getting in and out of a chair. In the course of daily life, we use many skills to accomplish even "simple" tasks. Walking or using a fork is surprisingly complex. Nerve signals and muscles have to coordinate in a very specific order. A healthy body is a marvel!
We take these skills for granted until something interrupts our abilities. Arthritis, for instance, can make it hard to grasp a fork. A stroke may require a right-handed person to learn to do things with the left hand. The tremor of Parkinson's can make dressing a challenge.
Occupational therapy can be used to help your loved one
remain at home despite a chronic condition;
recover from a surgery or other health event;
improve the ability to accomplish specific tasks or activities.
Occupational therapists have special training to help people overcome new challenges with the daily tasks of living. A therapist might show your loved one some exercises for better coordination. They might recommend special equipment or supplies. Maybe all that's needed is a rearrangement of furniture in the house. Or a slightly different approach to doing the same thing.
Occupational therapy can be provided at home or in an outpatient clinic. It usually starts with a home visit. The therapist will
watch your loved one perform various tasks;
evaluate the home for safety and convenience;
recommend exercises and/or home modifications;
consider best options for transportation;
develop goals based on your relative's abilities, interest, and budget.
Participate in the visit if you can. That way you learn what might help your family member live to the fullest in spite of limitations.
Ask the doctor for a referral If you think your loved one would benefit from knowledgeable guidance, ask the doctor for a referral. Occupational therapy is covered by Medicare. Also by Medicaid and most private insurances.
Does life seem harder than it was?
If you notice your loved one struggling to do things that used to be a simple part of daily life, he or she might benefit from the services of an occupational therapist. As the North Shore and Chicago expert in family caregiving, we at Options for Aging have seen firsthand how much a simple device or a change in approach can transform an elder's self-sufficiency. If you are concerned about a loved one, give us a call at 847-868-1445.