Occupational Therapy for Seniors – Why is it Important?

Occupational Therapy for Seniors – Why is it Important?

There comes a point in time when you wonder if things are still OK. Sure, there are obvious situations such as illnesses or falls which will alert you, but most times, things are not this obvious. It is often the subtle things, where you think something might be odd, unusual, or just questionable. It could be something that was always taken for granted that suddenly your aging parent is no longer able to do, or remember. They may be fumbling with buttons or zippers on their clothing. It could be a lapse in judgement where they were always accurate and capable of rational decisions before. They may try to unlock the front door with a pencil instead of a key, or stack the towels in the microwave instead of the linen cupboard. Perhaps it is a sadness or loss of interest in something that was always important to them. They might be particularly quiet, not wanting to socialize as they normally would, or not taking their usual pride in their personal appearance. As these episodes become more and more frequent, you realize that you now need to keep an eye on them. You worry about their safety and wellbeing, both physically and mentally. They want to maintain their independence in their day to day activities for as long as they can.

Children of aging parents often times are already stretched with many obligations. Careers, children of their own, activities, can already be very stressful in today’s busy lifestyle. Add in the extra job of having to look after aging parents as well, it is not always possible to put your best energies towards this. You might not know how best to help them, and you may find yourself stretched in many directions. You may not be familiar with resources in the community or the type of equipment available to assist them, and you don’t know where to start. You will soon realize how much the additional responsibility of time, worry and caretaking can impact your lifestyle. This is where the need for Occupational Therapy for Seniors becomes apparent.


Why an OT?

Your parents will not want to alarm or cause you any concern. “I’m fine, really.” “I can manage.” Seniors may tend to hide their shortcomings from their family. It is difficult to admit to decline because their role as parent has always been to be strong for their children and it can be difficult to accept the inevitable reversal of the caretaking roles. They do not want to be a burden on you. They do not want to appear weak or in need in front of their children. They want to appear independent, so they will do the best they can, and manage their circumstances with difficulty. Some may overcompensate, and by doing so, put themselves in risky situations, being too stubborn to admit that they now need assistance with things that they were formerly able to do by themselves.

By enlisting the services of an Occupational Therapist for Seniors, the needs of the senior as well as the caregiver will be met. With an OT being an outside person who is genuinely concerned about them, the senior may open up and share some of their difficulties and concerns. The OT will objectively assess the big picture. OT’s may be able to see some warning signs that may not be apparent to you, or that your parent is trying to hide. They may also recognize some progression of symptoms or difficulties and anticipate situations, and be able to make recommendations or put accommodations into place before the problems get worse. They are professionally educated to assess for equipment and assistive devices, relevant programs, alternative methods of doing tasks and activities, to keep your parent safe, productive and comfortable. Seniors will be involved in performing their day to day activities, as well as leisure activities, as they always have, for as long as they are able to. OT’s can do long term planning, anticipating their future needs to keep them safe and engaged, participating in meaningful activities as they age.

About the author

Arvinder Gaya, BScOT, OT Reg. (Ont.), is the founder of PiOT and has over 25 years of clinical experience.

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