Occupational Therapy for Older People

What is Occupational Therapy?

Many Older People require occupational therapy (often referred to as “OT”) as a way to help perform “occupations” or activities of daily living (ADLs) – which can include everything from bathing and toileting to getting dressed in the morning. As we age, certain conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes, can make performing these activities much more difficult. Thus, the goal of Occupational Therapy is to help Older People learn to move and function and overcome physical challenges, in spite of diminished range-of-motion and mobility. However, OT is not limited to just improving physical functionality: therapists can use a variety of techniques to help improve memory and cognitive ability, as well.

Occupational Therapists will first work to understand an individual’s specific needs, by talking with the client, his or her family members, friends, and primary doctor/physician. Older People often first come into contact with an OT during a stay in hospital.  OTs also take into account your medical history, eating/sleeping patterns, and any other behavioural patterns that can help form a thorough assessment. From there, they will develop a plan comprised of specific recommendations and techniques conducive to meeting his or her goals.

Services provided by Occupational Therapists

OT plays an important role in primary health care, working as part of the multi-disciplinary team to meet the health needs of individuals, families and the community. Some of the more common services provided by OTs include:

  • Functional assessments at home
  • Recommendations re modifying your home.  Some ADLs simply can’t be completed without some form of modification of the home. Therapists may recommend what improvements or modifications are required, whether it’s the installation of railings, mats, grip bars – or any other assistive devices designed to help improve balance and stability – or modified utensils that can make eating easier. This can make a significant difference for those that may be suffering from arthritis or Parkinson’s for example.
  • Advice re local authority grant system/OT functional reports
  • Advice and provision (for medical card holders) of specialist and enabling equipment to optimise safety/independence.  Non medical card holders will probably have to purchase or hire any equipment they need.
  • Wheelchair assessment and seating provision
  • Advice for pressure relief relevant to seating
  • Assessments for hoists and other manual handling equipment provision
  • Carer advice and support
  • Improving mental wellbeing: As mentioned, occupational therapy does not revolve solely around improving physical wellbeing. If they’ve received referrals from doctors or other health care professionals to help reduce stress or anxiety, occupational therapists can incorporate relaxation exercises and techniques into your routine. Similarly, they can utilize various activities to help improve cognition, with crossword puzzles or memory games.


How to access an Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists in Ireland are employed by most Local HSE Health Offices, and they are also employed by Voluntary hospitals and agencies. Their services are generally available free of charge to medical card holders.  Most Health Centres have a Duty Occupational Therapist that you could ask to speak to in the first case.

There is a shortage of occupational therapists in Ireland and as a result you could be placed on a waiting list and will be seen on a priority basis.

Different settings/ services will liaise closely with one another when working with you e.g. hospital Occupational Therapist will hand over a patient or refer a patient to a community Occupational Therapist.

If you require an Occupational Therapist you could contact your local Health Centre for more information in the first instance, or give us a call in Heritage Homecare and we will help you find the right point of contact.

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