You probably know what a physical therapist does—but how about an occupational therapist? This lesser known profession can work wonders to help people of all ages perform activities of daily living more efficiently, including seniors who may struggle with mobility. April is Occupational Therapy month, so it’s an ideal time to discover a little more about what occupational therapists do.
What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
“In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations),” according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website. This includes daily activities such as eating, dressing, school activities, and work. Although occupational therapists (also called OTs) may work in settings similar to physical therapists, each type of therapy has a different role.
Here are a few examples of ways that occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people:
- Help children with disabilities to participate in school and social situations
- Help someone who has been injured to regain skills
- Provide support for older adults with physical and cognitive changes
- Help those with mobility issues get around their house and complete activities of daily living more safely
During a first meeting with a client, an occupational therapist will conduct an evaluation and help determine the person’s goals. He or she also will customize a plan to improve the person’s ability perform daily activities and reach those goals, the AOTA reports. The occupational therapist may review the client’s home or other environment to recommend adaptive equipment or provide education to family members and caregivers. “Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team,” the AOTA reports.
You can find occupational therapists in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, private practice, school systems, prisons, and in many other settings. Insurance varies in its coverage of occupational therapy. However, if your health care providers think you or someone you care for would benefit from occupational therapy, then it would be worth exploring this possibility. Occupational therapy is just one more health resource that benefits many people.
The American Occupational Therapy Association has a resource page that helps those caring for adults and older adults. It includes information on aging in place, falls prevention, and home modification, among other topics.
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