Occupational Therapy





What is an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational Therapists (OTs) are trained professionals who specialize in helping people manage daily tasks in the easiest, most efficient way possible.

Occupational Therapists usually are part of a health care team. Look for a licensure designation of Registered Occupational Therapist. These individuals have passed a national certification exam and have at least a Bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy.




What are Activities of Daily Living?

Daily tasks are usually called Activities of Daily Living by the health care community. These activities are not always defined the same but usually include:

  • feeding
  • dressing
  • bathing
  • moving from a bed to a chair (also called transferring)
  • toileting
  • walking


There is another group of tasks identified by professionals that is more comprehensive than Activities of Daily Living. These tasks are called Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. They include:

  • using the telephone
  • getting to places beyond walking distance
  • grocery shopping
  • preparing meals
  • housework
  • laundry
  • taking medications
  • managing money

An Occupational Therapist's main objective is to improve people's ability to perform these tasks which are critical to independent living.

Professionals use a scale of a person's ability to perform these tasks as evidence of their ability to live and function independently and they often serve as indicators of eligibility for assistance, both financial and hands-on, and as eligibility for long-term care placement, either assisted living or nursing home care.




Who Do They Work With?

Occupational Therapists (OTs) work with individuals who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling. They, in conjunction with a team of health care professionals, create a treatment plan that is designed to help improve basic motor skills, increase reasoning abilities, and compensate for permanent loss of function.




What Do They Do?

Occupational Therapists use a variety of methods to help people accomplish the planned goals. They might help with range-of-motion exercises like raising an arm or stretching legs and torsos. They might provide instruction on the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, and splints. Or, they might help someone learn how to use aids for eating and dressing such as zipper pulls or eating utensils designed to be easily held and gripped. They might help a person with a new disability learn an adaptive technique for cooking or caring for his or her bathing needs.

Other ways they might help would be to provide specialized exercises to improve hand-eye coordination for a person who now has lack of coordination. Or someone with memory loss might be encouraged to make lists to aid in recall. Occupational Therapists are also helpful resources for finding adaptive equipment and, when merited, adapting everyday items to fit the current needs of the individual.




Paying for an Occupational Therapist

Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurers generally require the Occupational Therapist to be licensed to qualify for reimbursement. Occupational Therapy must be prescribed by the primary health care provider in order to be eligible for coverage.

Many long-term care facilities have an Occupational Therapist on staff. Talk with the facility about how services would be included in the plan of care and how payment is made for services.




Determining if Your Family Member Needs Assistance


As a family member ages, we often don't notice the subtle changes in functioning. When a crisis situation occurs, we then must think back to past behaviors and functioning to determine how the situation became so critical.

For a caregiver, checklists can help you to think about your family member in a practical and functional way. Completing checklists can help you to determine what services may be needed and the level of care that will best suit the needs of your family.




After completing the checklist, links to Caregiver Specialists are offered to help you evaluate the results.


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