What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are medical professionals who help individuals through the use of occupations or therapeutic procedures to achieve their goals for living. For the older adult population the goals are usually to maintain their independence as long as possible in the areas of self-care skills, leisure activities, home management, meal preparation and community mobility including driving. Occupational therapists like to use a holistic approach to treating patients which allows the patient to participate in being a part of the team to establish a treatment plan and goals to fit them and their environmental needs. In order to receive occupational therapy services, a referral from a physician is required.
In the State of Florida, an occupational therapist must be certified by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) which means he or she has completed an educational program with a Bachelor's or Master's degree and has passed a certification exam. In addition, occupational therapists must be licensed by the Florida Occupational Therapy Board. A good resource for information on occupational therapy is the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), www.aota.org.
Occupational Therapy Services Offered at the Byrd InstituteThe Byrd Institute provides occupational therapy services to older adults with diagnoses including mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, deficits in physical function resulting from various diseases and disorders including stroke, heart attack, arthritis, cancer and others as referred by a physician.
Services include assessment and treatment for:
- Self-Care Skills including compensatory strategies and training in use of adaptive equipment.
- Home Safety Assessment with education and training in use of adaptive or assistive devices for the home.
- Cognitive Skills Development including memory, attention, and processing speed which relate to safety with activities of daily living including basic self-care, home management and driving.
- Therapeutic Exercise programs including use of therapeutic activities to improve strength, range of motion, endurance and coordination for use with improving activities of daily living in all areas.
- Driver Safety Assessment including a driver history interview, physical assessment, visual assessment, cognitive assessment, rules of the road, and road signs.
- On the Road Assessment including a 30-60 minute drive with an occupational therapist in a safety equipped car.
- Falls Risk Screening using computerized balance assessment equipment, Biodex SD and the Gait Rite system, along with functional mobility training and safety training to prevent falls in and out of the home.
- Driver Safety Assessment including a driver history interview, physical assessment, visual assessment, cognitive assessment, rules of the road, and road signs. A driving simulator is not used for driving evaluations, but the assessment may include a 30-60 minute on-the-road test with a therapist in a safety equipped car.
How do Occupational Therapists help individuals with Alzheimer's disease?Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with individuals with Alzheimer's disease and their families to maximize their engagement in occupations (self-care, leisure, mobility), provide education on increasing safety, and enhance quality of life. The assessment process begins with an occupational profile of the individuals valued roles, occupations and routines as well as the current level of performance in those. The caregiver will play a vital role in the assessment and treatment process. The occupational therapist helps to identify the remaining abilities of a person with Alzheimer's disease and take the focus away from what they can no longer do. Some ways the occupational therapist can help include:
- Helping the caregiver to identify the appropriate types of cueing that are needed to help the individual exceed in self-care and leisure activities.
- Teaching the caregiver how to identify and handle difficult behaviors.
- Identify performance in self-care and leisure activities that can be maintained and which will help to prolong independence.
- Train the caregiver in use of compensatory strategies and educate on use of adaptive equipment and assistive devices to promote independence and safety.
- Teach home exercise and maintenance programs to prolong independence and safety.