For seniors facing a diagnosis that may impact their memory, often the initial concerns are personal: forgetting familiar faces, names of loved ones, and treasured memories. In addition to these personal impacts, those experiencing memory loss also deal with practical implications on their daily lives, as it can impact an individual’s ability to accomplish daily tasks such as bathing, eating, and taking medication.
Thankfully, families have resources available to strengthen and maintain their loved ones’ abilities. One incredibly valuable resource that directly benefits their ability to perform daily activities is occupational therapy.
What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?
Occupational therapy focuses on the performance of activities required in daily life. While a person might turn to physical therapy to improve their patient’s ability to move, occupational therapy focuses on the ability to perform tasks with that movement.
In senior living, each resident’s skilled occupational therapy plan of care will differ based on their need for different types of skilled services, the complexity of their health history, their personal drive to see results, and their caregivers’ follow through on recommendations from skilled services. OT sessions may include anything from working on functional standing balance while performing hands-on tasks to education on how to use or modify adaptive equipment.
How does occupational therapy help with memory loss?
Research has shown evidence that occupational therapy may help optimize performance of activities of daily living (ADL) for people with dementia, while considering psychological symptoms and improving quality of life. By participating in skilled services to address ADLs, residents strengthen their ability to perform these tasks and maintain the ability to do so as long as possible.
Occupational therapy also can benefit caregivers by increasing the individuals’ independence and decreasing the amount of assistance they need.
What should an occupational therapist focus on for memory care?
Every individual’s OT plan will differ, but occupational therapists will commonly identify opportunities for the following:
- Restoration of physical skills: Although the remediation of cognitive skills is not generally expected, range of motion, strength, and endurance exercises will promote increased independence and safety during activities of daily living (dressing, toileting, showering, etc.).
- Maintenance: Therapists can determine what is working well in the daily routine of the person and provide support to ensure their skills are maintained as long as possible.
- Modification: Some tasks may be accomplished by changing the environment or the ways a task is completed (i.e., using grab bars, bed rails, toilet safety rails, adapted utensils at mealtime, wheelchair positioning).
- Promoting mental and emotional wellbeing: Focusing on residents’ existing strengths can promote cognitive stimulation and continued engagement in desired activities, while decreasing behaviors impacting safety.
What types of skills may benefit from occupational therapy?
The exercises and activities an OT guides the individual through are mostly focused on practical life skills. These tasks may include:
- Feeding focused: meal preparation, self-feeding
- Hygiene focused: bathing, grooming, brushing hair and teeth
- Bathroom focused: accessing and using the bathroom
- Mobility: using a walker or wheelchair, practicing stairs
- Dressing: practice removing or putting on garments, use of buttons, zippers, snaps
How can seniors access occupational therapy?
For seniors experiencing memory loss or who have received a memory-related diagnosis, occupational therapy is a great addition to their care plan. Individuals or their caregivers should ask their provider for a referral.
For residents of senior living communities served by EmpowerMe Wellness, accessing occupational therapy is simple. EmpowerMe’s occupational therapists work collaboratively with the entire community care team to bring OT services to residents where they feel most comfortable.
Here’s what personalized occupational therapy looks like here at EmpowerMe Wellness: https://vimeo.com/572282682
Interested in learning more? Connect with someone from our team to learn more about EmpowerMe Wellness.