Aging presents challenges. As parents, grandparents, and we ourselves get older, we can lose physical or cognitive skills that once came easily. However, there are ways to deal with these challenges. Occupational therapy and the services brought by occupational therapy assistants are beneficial to clients contending with a variety of age related diagnoses. These services can be especially beneficial to elderly clients, who can struggle to regain or retain activities of daily living. If you’ve ever considered becoming an OTA or working with the elderly, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Related resource: What Is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
One of the most important areas in which occupational therapy can assist seniors is helping them with the basic activities they need to perform every day. These activities of daily living (or ADL, as they’re known in occupational therapy) can include things as basic as brushing one’s hair or teeth. While many of us may take these activities for granted, it’s possible to lose skills because of physical, cognitive, or mental degeneration.
It’s also possible to regain skills, too. OTAs can assist in helping people who have experienced a bad fall or a stroke, for example, regain the skills to maintain independence. It could very well be that certain activities take more time, must be done in a new way, or require some assistance.
Performing any kind of eldercare usually means you’ll also have to communicate with your client’s loved ones such as children, grandchildren, or a spouse. OTAs can often assist with changes to a client’s house, for instance, to make it more accessible or user-friendly based on the client’s new situation. It’s often up to the OTA to tell family members that things are arranged a certain way and need to stay that way.
OTAs will also educate loved ones about their family member’s daily routine and how they can assist, as well as inform them of what their senior family member may or may not be able to do anymore. Plenty of family members want to see their parent or grandparent as a source of strength or authority, but it’s often up to an OTA to tell them certain activities may no longer be safe for them to perform. Grandma cannot drive anymore, for instance, or grandfather can no longer navigate stairs without some assistance.
The U.S. needs people to care for seniors. Not just because it’s a good thing to do in and of itself (which it is), but because more and more of the population is aging. Aging baby boomers present professional and economic challenges for the world of healthcare, and one of the biggest issues is simply having enough people to care for them. Younger people will need to step up and say yes to becoming caregivers.
Don’t forget, too, that caring for seniors is an opportunity. These are people who have seen more, done more, and know more about the world we live in than younger people do. Working with them and hearing their wisdom and insight can often be not just a job, but a privilege.