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What is Occupational Therapy and How Can It Help Me Maintain Independence?

An occupational therapist helps a senior man use a walker to maintain mobility and independence

If you’ve ever wished for a way to regain your confidence and independence as you tackle everyday tasks, you can stop looking for a magic lamp to rub. You may not need a genie to grant your wishes—but you might benefit from some occupational therapy!


Occupational therapy is sometimes confused with physical therapy, which typically involves exercises to build strength and mobility after surgery or an extended hospital stay. Occupational therapy shares some similarities, but its ultimate purpose is quite different.


What is occupational therapy?

This form of therapy is designed to ensure you’re well-equipped to navigate your activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, using the toilet, and eating regular, nutritious meals. Closely related and equally important are your instrumental activities of daily living, which are the tasks you perform to maintain a safe and successful lifestyle. Examples include grocery shopping, housekeeping, paying the bills, and securing transportation to important events like doctor appointments.


Occupational therapy services may involve exercise to ensure you’re physically able to execute these activities safely and effectively, but it also frequently incorporates education and rehabilitative activities. The benefits of occupational therapy for seniors are far-reaching. To put it simply, occupational therapy gives you skills and tools to live a better quality of life while maintaining independence.


Occupational therapists can help in a variety of ways. They can:

  •         Show you new methods for completing everyday tasks
  •         Recommend changes that make your home more accessible and convenient
  •         Help you obtain adaptive equipment that supports your independence


A Smoother Path to the Same Destination

Sometimes a minor change can have a significant impact on a frustrating chore. It’s an occupational therapist’s job to understand where you encounter hardships and help figure out how to overcome them.


For example, if you struggle with getting dressed, your occupational therapist can give you tips to make it easier—like rolling on your socks or holding your pants differently so they’re easier to step into. If you struggle to stand after you’ve been sitting for an extended period, occupational therapy can teach you how to shift your weight to specific muscles and rise more easily and safely.


Helpful Home Improvements

An occupational therapist can also assess your living environment to identify potential obstacles and solutions. Some suggestions may be simple, like removing rugs or rearranging furniture to create wider walkways. Other ideas may be more involved, like installing a ramp so you can exit the home more safely.


In some cases, you can get assistance with these kinds of improvements when they’ve been deemed necessary by a medical professional. An occupational therapist can help make those referrals and recommendations.


Devices to Support Self-Sufficiency

You may be shocked by all the different gadgets and gizmos your occupational therapist can find to help with virtually any problem you can imagine. There are catalogs literally inches thick filled with everything from grabbers that make it easier to pick up things to smart devices with sensors that help you locate commonly misplaced items, like an ever-elusive remote control. Occupational therapy can also help you get access to adaptive equipment to protect your safety, like grab bars and shower seats, and, if necessary, your therapist can offer insight to your doctor about durable medical devices that may assist with mobility and other challenges.


Other Sources of Support

Essentially, an occupational therapist removes obstacles, whatever they may be. If your memory is fading, they might suggest activities to stimulate your brain or color-coded stickers to help you identify household features. Larger buttons and voice-activated controls are useful for older adults whose eyesight is no longer sharp. If you’re prone to falls, an occupational therapist can show you how to reduce your risk. Occupational therapy can also provide resources to your loved ones who are serving as caregivers.


Your Independence is Our Top Goal

At The Oaks at Denville, our short-term rehabilitation programs—including occupational therapy—are designed to bring you long-term results. We work closely with your medical team to create a custom care plan that promotes your independence and quality of life. Contact us to learn more about our rehabilitative services in Denville, New Jersey.

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