Sunday, April 9, 2017

"It's That Time Again To Recognize The Efforts Of Occupational Therapists"

A few times throughout the year we have an opportunity to honor some of those who are instrumental in providing aging in place solutions to help people remain living successfully in their homes over time. During our current month of April, we celebrate Occupational Therapy Month. Six months from now, in October, we will be observing Physical Therapy Month. It's interesting that they split the year the way they do.

While many types of health care professionals provide valuable assistance for creating aging in place solutions, the OT, because of their training and core competency, is especially qualified to assess the physical capabilities of a individual in their home and make recommendations involving the mobility, sensory, or cognitive functions that might have a bearing on creating a safer and more accessible living environment for them.

The is instrumental in providing assessments of how an individual uses their living space by observing them and asking questions about the way they function in their home. They evaluate their quality of life, safety, range of motion, general reach and accessibility, activities of daily living, ability to move about within their space, and the presence of other people in their home and how they interact with them. Then they form their conclusions about what is needed to improve that particular home and address the needs of the client.

Could some of us non-medical people do these evaluations as well? In a basic sense we could, however, OTs and other trained health care and related professionals (PTs, ATPs, nurses, physicians, CNAs, paramedics, and social workers, among others) know what to look for as they see what is going on ion the home.

Unless we have the medical training to know how what we were observing translated into the general health and well-being of the client, we could not recommend suitable modifications for their home. We would be approaching it more from a functional standpoint of what seemed to work or not work but not the underlying reasons of why this was the case - and how to work with or resolve that. Additionally, OTs understand the aging process and how to prevent falls and other injuries that might result from balance or other sensory issues that might be present.

When there is a specific medical condition that affects how the client functions, the OT has the training to review the necessary medical reports and form their professional opinions about specific measures that need to be taken to accommodate the client - and those might change over time as well. This part of the overall review and assessment process is one that the contractor and others cannot do.

The OT then partners with remodeling contractors or similar professionals who can translate their wishes and recommendations into reality. The contractor determines how to implement what the OT has suggested. Remodelers often conduct their own independent assessments, but they don't have the medical knowledge to suggest meaningful solutions for clients who require more than a typical redesign or retooling of their space without taking into account any physical, sensory, or cognitive needs that might affect that renovation. This is why the OT is such a valuable strategic partner for the remodeler and the entire aging in place team to have and use.

Other aging-in-place professionals that comprise the team - depending on the size and scope of the renovation project - such as designers, architects, trade contractors, and durable medical equipment suppliers will enjoy working with and utilizing the services and expertise of OTs to create the most effective solutions possible and serve a larger clientele than just general remodeling projects.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.