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Occupational therapists make it easier to live at home

April is National Occupational Therapy Month. The profession of occupational therapy makes valuable contributions in helping people “live life to its fullest” after an illness or injury. If you have ever been in a situation in which you were physically unable to complete your daily tasks, an occupational therapist can help.

Occupational therapists are health and rehabilitation professionals that help individuals achieve independence in their lives despite disabilities. Independence can be achieved several ways: through adaptation of tasks or environment, improving strength, improving fine motor coordination and through patient and family education.

An occupational therapist will typically provide services that include an individualized evaluation and the development of a plan of care to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities, while taking the person’s personal goals into account. The person is an integral part of the therapy team.

Occupational therapists will make recommendations to help increase independence and safety; these recommendations are formed by the needs and wants of the person, as well as the person’s skills and environment. Not only will a therapist teach methods to develop better function for daily activities, but he or she can also make suggestions for modifications in the home, or place of residence, to increase independence and safety. These modifications can include installation of handrails or grab bars, increasing wattage for better lighting and removal of throw rugs.

Many individuals would like to age in place and remain in their homes as they grow older. If this applies to you, it is important to be safe and be honest with yourself about things you have trouble with. Here are a few tips and suggestions from occupational therapy practitioners:

■ Ask for assistance when possible.

■ Hire professionals for cleaning and lawn care.

■ Arrange for Meals on Wheels.

■ If you are unable to drive yourself safely, ask a friend, neighbor or family member to drive you, or take public transportation.

■ If you are driving yourself, avoid driving during rush hour, at night, on busy roads or in bad weather.

■ Remove clutter from the home and keep walking paths clear, including hallways.

■ Repair any furniture that isn’t sturdy.

■ Make sure you have adequate lighting in all areas of the home and yard.

■ Use the microwave instead of the stove to reduce fire hazards.

■ If you have throw rugs, remove them or make sure they are secured firmly to the floor.

■ Do not use chairs to get something you can’t reach. Ask for help, or use a sturdy stool with hand rail.

■ Do not use towel bars, sink edges, etc. for support. These items are not secure enough to safely support you and could come away from the wall.

■ Add nonslip strips or a rubber mat to the tub to prevent slipping.

If you have an older parent who wishes to remain at home, practitioners provided the following tips:

■ Keep the lines of communication open and have dialogues regarding living arrangements and concerns.

■ Pay attention to any signs that daily activities have become too difficult for your parent to complete independently.

■ Focus on your concerns and not on the changes in your parent’s abilities or his or her difficulties.

■ Provide a needed service, such as changing light bulbs, or hire professionals for household chores.

■ Assure your parent that you are happy to assist him or her and that helping is not a chore.

At Boulder City Hospital, occupational therapy services are available on an inpatient, outpatient and home health basis. If you or someone you know can benefit from occupational therapy services, consult with your doctor about available options or call us at 702-698-8333. Our therapists are dedicated to promoting optimal independence that can lead to improved quality of life.

Further information regarding how occupational therapy can help you or your loved ones live life to its fullest can be found on the website of the American Occupational Therapy Association at http://www.aota.org/.

To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.

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