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Occupational Therapists Provide Key Benefits During All Life Stages

With April being Occupational Therapy Month, we thought it would be a good time to explore the top benefits of occupational therapists (OTs) during all stages of life, including during end of life care in San Mateo and elsewhere. Occupational therapy helps people achieve key tasks through the therapeutic use of daily activities, helping people of any age to live life to the fullest, says the American Occupational Therapy Association. The end goal is to promote health and prevent or lessen the effects of illness, injury, or disability. In short, these professionals help patients develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills necessary for daily working and living.

OT in Various Life Stages

  • Kids: Occupational therapists help children play, improve school performance, and aid in their daily activities, boosting their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, according to KidsHealth. OTs can also help children develop fine motor skills so they are better able to grab and release small objects or use a computer; improve eye-hand coordination so they are better able to read the whiteboard or hit a ball; get better at basic life skills such as dressing, bathing, brushing teeth, and feeding themselves; learn how to better manage frustration and anger.
  • Athletes: Athletes young and old who have suffered a possibly season- or career-ending injury can benefit from an OT’s help as they adapt to new ranges of motion while recovering former skills.
  • Adults: In the office setting OTs, can help employees improve their productivity and job success. For instance, someone suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) can benefit from the skills of an OT to help them return to full capacity.
  • Elderly: Conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are all common as we age. For those who suffer from reduced vision, an OT can help manage their daily activities to ensure safety at home and on the roads.

Benefits of Occupational Therapists in End of Life Care

Occupational therapists make up a big part of the hospice care team because they can identify life roles and activities that have meaning to the patient, while at the same time addressing barriers to performing those activities, says the American Occupational Therapy Association. These professionals differ from others in that they take into consideration the physical, psychosocial, and behavioral health needs of the patient, connecting them with the right resources and support systems.

In a hospice setting, occupational therapy provides a client-centered, holistic approach to ensuring a sense of independence even in the face of challenges that come with life-threatening symptoms. Occupational therapy that focuses on end of life is a typical offering in hospitals, hospice facilities, homes or outpatient centers. The needs of the patient will be assessed, current and potential abilities will be identified, and requirements to ensure activities of daily living (ADLs), sleep, and leisure will be analyzed. Therapists can employ the use of stretching routines or splints that don’t interfere with daily activities if needed, in an effort to prevent contractures and ensure joint integrity.

Here are just a few ways they can help.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

  • Dressing through the use of adaptive equipment, modified techniques, energy conservation principles, and correct body mechanics to keep pain, overexertion and fatigue at bay.
  • Bathing and showering for safety with specialized equipment like grab bars and shower benches.
  • Functional mobility by incorporating fall prevention strategies.
  • Meal prep by incorporating activity modifications for easier access, as well as promoting a healthy diet and strong nutrition management.
  • Home management by assessing body mechanics and activity tolerance.
  • Health management on how to reduce symptoms of pain, anxiety, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

Rest and Sleep

  • Assessing sleeping habits that ensure more restorative sleep.
  • Providing relaxation techniques and position alternatives for comfort.
  • Identifying ways in which the person can participate in community activities even though they have a chronic illness or mobility issue.
  • Using relaxation techniques, coping strategies, anxiety and time management, and activity pacing.
  • Identifying ways to maintain memory and concentration.

Psychosocial/Behavioral Health

  • Discussing fears, anxieties, and feelings with patients and families, offering resources in the creation of an end-of-life plan.
  • Encouraging communication and family involvement.
  • Supporting family caregivers in what to realistically expect and educating them on safe body mechanics during transfers and ADLs.

How OTs Help Patients and Families

OTs rarely just work with a patient — they often integrate that care with the family as well to keep everyone in the loop. They are skilled at:

  • Supporting and educating patients, families, caregivers, health care professionals, and policymakers.
  • Working with individuals to address ADLs, psychological issues, and emotional issues, energy conservation, comfort, and splinting and positioning.
  • Connecting patients with community services and support groups.
  • Conducting home assessments.
  • Advocating for patients to die with dignity, without pain, wherever they choose, while in the presence of loved ones.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We can pair you with an occupational therapist as you navigate end of life care. We can tell you more about this invaluable resource when you contact us at 888-978-1306.