An occupational therapist helps a senior man practice fine motor skills

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How Occupational Therapy Helps You Maintain Independence

Over time, simple daily tasks can become more challenging than they once were. That may be due to natural changes as you age, or it may be the result of an illness or injury. Here’s the good news: Just  because you can’t do something the way you used to doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all. Learning new ways to overcome your everyday challenges is the very purpose of occupational therapy.


What Is Occupational Therapy?

While physical therapy develops your physical strength and mobility, occupational therapy’s purpose is to ensure you can navigate daily living as independently as possible. Occupational therapists guide you with exercises, interventions, and even assistive devices that can help you complete your activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) more efficiently.


What Are Activities of Daily Living?

Your ability to take care of your personal needs is a critical factor in your independence. Activities of daily living are the regular tasks you do to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, including bathing, grooming, brushing your teeth, dressing, and using the toilet. This category of self-care also includes other essential needs like regular nutrition and the ability to move freely within your home.


Closely related are instrumental activities of daily living, which aren’t essential for living, but significantly affect your quality of life. These include responsibilities like cooking, housekeeping, laundry, managing your money, and securing transportation to maintain a functional lifestyle (e.g., medical appointments, grocery shopping, etc.).


What Are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy?

For most older adults, maintaining independence is of utmost importance. Occupational therapy services focus on your abilities (rather than your limitations), and therapists offer ideas to make use of your strength, mobility and function in new ways.


Exercise and Movement: You might learn new stretches that help improve your range of motion, or practice new ways to sit or stand that allow you to shift your weight to your stronger muscles. Some activities, such as working on a puzzle, might feel like play, but they’re actually helping improve fine motor skills and sharpen your thinking.


Household Modifications: Even simple changes in your home can make a big impact on your daily life, so it’s very common for an occupational therapist to visit your living space and offer ideas for improvements. Small-scale examples include adding grab bars in the bathroom or using a medical alert system. Larger endeavors might involve installing a ramp to replace stairs at the entryway or replacing a high-walled bathtub with a walk-in shower. If you’re experiencing vision loss, bright stickers and tape can help you identify objects or call attention to items you could trip over.


Tools and Tricks: Another benefit of occupational therapy for seniors is identifying whether there are additional resources you can use to make life easier. Some assistive devices make practical, everyday tasks easier, like a shoe horn that eases your foot into a shoe or a grabber that helps you pick up things without bending over. Your occupational therapist might also make recommendations to your doctor about durable medical equipment that would keep you safer, such as a walker or lift.


Find Rehabilitation Care that Reshapes Your Future

Whether you’ve taken a fall, fallen ill,or simply find some daily tasks taking more effort than they used to, regaining your independence is a top priority. A caring team of rehabilitative therapists can provide services, including occupational therapy, to help you reach your goals faster, so you can get back to enjoying your familiar lifestyle.


One measure of a quality rehabilitation program is how many residents return home after receiving post-acute care. In Virginia, the average is 57.1%;the national average is 50.8%. At Lakewood, a faith-based, nonprofit community in the West End of Richmond, 74% of residents return to their homes. That’s just one reason Lakewood received a U.S. News and World Report Award for Best Nursing Home in Short-Term Rehabilitation.


For those who still need some support to retain their independence, Lakewood’s Assisted Living community offers a helping hand, extended with the utmost kindness and hospitality. Contact us to learn more about how our vibrant community can help you achieve a more engaging and fulfilling lifestyle.