Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on assisting individuals with everyday tasks in the workplace, school environment, social settings, and home.
Who Needs Occupational Therapy?
Patients diagnosed with the following conditions may need occupational therapy:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Spina bifida
- Learning disabilities
- Down Syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Phobias, such as agoraphobia
- Parkinson’s Disease
Elderly individuals may also need occupational therapy, especially if they’ve recently suffered a stroke. Aging makes it difficult to do daily activities, such as climbing stairs, dressing, or preparing meals. An occupational therapist can help individuals recover their abilities or adapt to their limitations without losing independence.
Benefits of Occupational Therapy
For elderly individuals, occupational therapy can improve daily life by:
- Supporting physical functioning
- Recommending home modifications
- Encouraging exercises
- Providing training for life and social skills to patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other cognitive impairments
- Creating a health plan
The Role of Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapists provide advice and support to help individuals complete daily tasks. Depending on the patient’s condition or treatment goals, the occupational therapist may help individuals:
- Continue working despite physical changes, cognitive challenges, or memory issues
- Participate in school despite disabilities
- Participate in social situations, hobbies, or sports
Occupational therapists will also:
- Collaborate with the individual and their family to identify treatment goals
- Design a custom treatment plan to help the individual perform everyday activities and reach their goals
- Evaluate the individual’s progress and adjust the plan, as necessary
- Recommend activities or modifications
- Assess home safety
- Train the individual on using new equipment
- Lead daily exercises
- Help individuals maintain a sense of normalcy as they adjust to their new surroundings
What to Expect During an Occupational Therapy Session
During the first appointment, the occupational therapist will begin by asking questions about the individual’s abilities, daily tasks, and goals. They will also review the individual’s medical history, watch them complete certain tasks in various settings, and offer initial suggestions.
Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy
Occupational therapy focuses on improving an individual’s overall ability to perform a particular task in their daily life. But a physical therapist focuses on improving movement.
Unlike occupational therapists, physical therapists may create a treatment plan that includes:
- Recommendations for specific exercises
- Hands-on care
- Education regarding the affected body part
The goals of the personalized plan may help individuals:
- Improve their mobility, such as for those with stiff joints or muscles
- Manage pain and other chronic conditions, such as persistent back pain
- Recover from injury or surgery
- Prevent further injury
Questions to Ask When Considering an Occupational Therapist
Patients searching for an experienced occupational therapist should ask the following questions:
- Do you provide one-on-one treatment?
- Do you offer a diagnostic evaluation?
- Can you provide written goals for treatment?
- Do you track progress?
- Do you provide intensive treatment?
- Do you specialize in a particular area of occupational therapy?