There have been enduring misconceptions about occupational therapy, and it has been merely lumped together with physical therapy due to their overlapping aspects. Occupational therapists work side by side with physical therapists to address conditions using the same treatment methods and tools. The stark distinction, however, lies in that physical therapy focuses on enhancing a person’s gross motor functions, whereas occupational therapy is aimed at improving a person’s ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL).
Occupational therapy interventions also incorporate exercise; however, the emphasis is on helping people develop functional skills, such as memory, organization, problem-solving, routine adherence, and social skills. This very principle is what makes occupational therapy a profoundly life-changing healthcare discipline.
Brief History of Occupational Therapy
While relatively new compared to other healthcare disciplines, occupational therapy has a vibrant backstory that speaks of its intuitive underlying principles.
Back in the 18th century, people with mental health conditions were considered an outcast or even a threat to society. Many of them were either placed in prison or put in seclusion. As human rights advocacies emerged, more human systems for addressing mental health conditions were put into place. Among these was the establishment of asylums that provided a safe haven for people to freely engage in their occupations. Such was crucial for helping them navigate through their mental health condition.
William Rush Dunton Jr. was a staunch advocate for occupational engagement, thus he was called the “father of OT.” In 1917, he established the National Society for Promotion of Occupational Therapy, which is now known as American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc (AOTA). This further shed light on the benefits of occupational management and eventually allowed for more clients to seek occupational therapy services.
Occupational Therapy: A Godsend to the Elderly
Occupational therapists work with elderly patients and teach them exercise and techniques to improve their fine and basic motor skills, dexterity, range of motion, and strength. These allow elderly patients to complete simple daily tasks—such as bathing, dressing, and eating—with remarkable ease. Even small improvements in these areas can make a huge difference when it comes to improving their quality of life.
Occupational therapy also helps the elderly in other important aspects of their life, such as the following:
· Memory Rehabilitation
While occupational therapy may be mainly associated with its advantages on a person’s physical well-being, it does actually provide a number of benefits on a person’s memory and cognitive abilities as well.
When occupational therapists first meet with their patients, they will evaluate their cognitive as well as their physical abilities, especially since there are elderly people who suffer from some degree of memory loss.
Below are some of the ways that an occupational therapist can help improve a patient’s memory and make coping with memory loss easier.
- Engaging patients in crossword puzzles, matching games, and other activities that enhance their memory
- Putting up signs on specific areas to keep elderly patients suffering from conditions that cause cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, from wandering and getting easily disoriented
- Teaching caregivers techniques that prevent further confusion in patients (Example would be placing out a limited number of clothing options in case the patient forgets what season it is.)
· Life Transitions
Elderly people have to go through tough challenges associated with life transitions, such as retirement, bereavement, and relocation. All of these can be a lot to deal with, more so for people who no longer have family members living with them.
Occupational therapists can help elderly patients in these tough situations by educating them on healthy coping skills. They can teach their patients new ways of doing the things that they love to do as well as empower them to work on becoming socially engaged and being the person that they aspire to be.
Occupational Therapy: A Gift to Children with Developmental Disabilities
For children with developmental disabilities, such as autism, the goal of occupational therapy is to improve their quality of life, both at home and in school. Occupational therapists can achieve this by helping patients improve and maintain skills that will teach them to become independent.
This entails a combination of a variety of strategies, helping children living with development challenges respond better to their environment. These OT strategies—such as physical activities, developmental activities, and adaptive strategies—are aimed at honing the following skills:
- Awareness of their body, how each part functions, and how these functions affect them
- Daily living skills (brushing their teeth, dressing, toilet training, and other grooming skills)
- Fine motor skills (holding objects while handwriting or cutting with scissors)
- Gross motor skills (walking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike)
- Communication, coping, playing, problem-solving, self-help, and social skills
- Sitting, posture, or perceptual skills, the latter of which pertains to the ability to tell the differences between colors, shapes, and sizes
- Visual skills for reading and writing
The skills mentioned above are crucial for helping children with autism or other developmental disabilities achieve the following:
- Establishing relationships with other children and adults
- Engaging in play with peers
- Expressing their feelings in more appropriate ways
- Learning how to delay gratification, focus on tasks, and self-regulate
Occupational Therapy: A Boon to People Recovering from an Injury or Illness
Occupational therapists also play an important role in helping patients recover successfully after surgery by providing them with adaptive equipment recommendations and doing home evaluations. Apart from helping patients perform self-care activities during their recovery phase, occupational therapists also do home evaluations to identify potential safety hazards and provide options to ensure safety especially in accident-prone areas like the bathroom.
Adaptive devices are growing in number each year, and such can make it difficult to determine which ones are the best choices for a particular situation. An occupational therapist can help you make an informed decision as to which is the most effective for or the most appropriate to your situation.
Occupational Therapy Services in Wooster, OH
If you want yourself or a loved to enjoy the life-changing benefits of occupational therapy, schedule an appointment with any of our providers at Wooster Ohio Hospital. We provide high-quality occupational and physical therapy and a vast variety of other healthcare services. Our providers are equipped with the expertise and experience to help our patients improve their adaptive skills to overcome the everyday challenges that hinder them from fulfilling their physical, emotional, and social needs.
For inquiries and appointments, you may call us at (330) 202-3300 or request an appointment online. You may consult with our speech pathologists in our HealthPoint office. Let us help you get the quality care you deserve!