Research suggests seniors have a higher rate of chronic disease, an estimated 77% of older adults have at least two chronic diseases. In addition to chronic illness, older adults are at a greater risk of falls resulting in injury or death. Evidence suggests an older adults succumbs to a fall every 19 minutes. On top of chronic illness and falls – older adults have a high rate of mental illness and substance abuse. One in four aging adults have a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or dementia.
It’s clear that as we age, our needs change and become more complex. We require medications, adaptive equipment and support from family or caregivers. To be effective, each solution to a need must be individualized. A solution is individualized to the person, diagnosis and environment – so why should aging at home be any different?
An occupational therapist can assess an individual’s unique needs and provide creative solutions for seniors to age at home. OTs are holistic practitioners – addressing physical skills, cognition and mental health. These factors may change how easily seniors are able to stay safe and independent at home.
A study published in 2017 assessed the benefits of occupational therapy when provided to community dwelling older people. Researchers found participants experienced no adverse effects and improved function in daily activities, mobility & social participation. Additional improvements were seen in fear of falling, cognition, disability and number of people who fell.
Occupational therapy is not a one size fits all type of practice. By evaluating an individual’s abilities and needs, OTs are able to recommend individualized solutions to help seniors age at home. Solutions may be as easy as adding a grab bar or railing, or more involved like suggesting a redesign or reconfiguring a room.
If you or a loved one desires to remain safe and independent at home, consider finding an occupational therapist.