Occupational Therapy is the use of assessment and intervention to develop, recover or maintain meaningful activities, or occupations, of individuals, groups or communities.
The occupational therapist’s work with older people is initially focused on identifying how these people organize their daily lives.
Understanding the organization of daily life and how each person manages to carry out daily activities is the first step.
All the activities that make up people’s lives, from daily life tasks such as brushing teeth, bathing, eating and dressing, to work/work and leisure activities must be considered. The interaction with family, friends, participation in religious groups, volunteer work, gyms, and activity centers are also part of the routine and must be observed in the work.
The occupational therapist’s action aims, through a careful evaluation process, to identify deviations. That is, what are the actions of daily life that need intervention. It is essential to know the whole routine of the person’s activities. Then, together with him/her, identify and favor new possibilities. We are talking about adaptations, aids, and devices that allow new actions. We are talking about enabling the recovery of potentialities, abilities, and interests. Always respecting the history, habits, and traditions. The patient’s real conditions, in the search for solutions to the identified problems, is a key factor.
The occupational therapist favors the organization of the subject’s daily life. It creates new spaces for the structuring and reconstruction of actions that, for some reason, are not being carried out.
These interruptions in the performance of daily activities can be the result of some transitory situation. For example, an illness or a traffic accident that presents significant percentages of returning to the normal state, the same as before this event. Permanent and/or progressive situations also occur. Usually, by chronic degenerative diseases such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, among others.
Through the planning and development of activities chosen according to each situation, the occupational therapist establishes a space for health and expression, where the doing is shared. The activities in question can be expressive, artistic, handicraft, work activities, etc. Or even activities of daily life, adaptations of the environment and daily utensils. In this way, the bond is strengthened and the opening for the conquest of new knowledge and new actions. The therapeutic relationship makes it possible to “cross over,” overcome difficulties, and propose new goals and the resumption of a new life project. In the case of degenerative diseases, occupational therapy can prolong the autonomy and/or independence of the elderly.
The occupational therapist works closely with other professionals, especially doctors, physiotherapists, and psychologists. In this way, he/she composes the care team, expanding the possibilities of intervention with the patient.
The team work concentrates actions that improve people’s quality of life and ensure a support capable of preventing and delaying the complications of diseases that may affect older people.
The presence of the family and/or caregiver becomes essential in the occupational therapist’s work, thus ensuring an integrated and more complete care.
When noticing any alteration or difficulty in performing activities that your family member used to do with total independence and autonomy, look for an occupational therapist to contribute to the care offered. Remembering that any early identification favors the possibilities of better results in the procedures. Prevention is the best way.