nursing home

Occupational Therapists in Nursing Homes – Part I


An occupational therapist is an important part of a long term care facility, whether it’s a nursing home, senior center or retirement home. Some of the services Occupational Therapists offer may surprise you. Because of that, this post (part one of two) will begin to guide you through the range of clinical work an occupational therapist can perform to help you or a loved one in long term care.

Complete Manual and Power Wheelchair Assessments

For most people, selecting a wheelchair for mobility is a daunting task. There is so much that goes into choosing the right one that it can be overwhelming and very confusing, especially if you are selecting one for a family member in a nursing home or retirement center. An Occupational Therapist helps with the wheelchair assessment process and makes it less stressful for the buyer. For example, an Occupational Therapist will assess the resident’s physical and functional abilities after a careful review of their diagnosis. A person in long term care could be dealing with anything from a stroke, arthritis, hip arthritis, or osteoarthritis.

Once the Occupational Therapist understands the functional abilities of a resident, they can fit the products to the individual’s unique needs. They will also ensure that the individual understands the features of the recommended products. Having an Occupational Therapist help with the wheelchair assessment process can alleviate stress from both the resident in long term care and the people in his or her life.

Complete cognitive assessments

Individuals in nursing homes, senior centers or retirement homes sometimes need Occupational Therapists for cognitive assessments. An Occupational Therapist can administer these cognitive assessments for residents who have an early onset of dementia or a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to ensure their safety and well-being. These assessments can be completed within long term care facilities, making the Occupational Therapist even more of a crucial team player in long term care.

Recommending pressure and redistribution surfaces

Having an Occupational Therapist on hand who can recommend pressure redistribution is crucial for residents living in nursing, senior or retirement homes. Individuals who use wheelchairs on a regular basis or people who are bed ridden benefit greatly from having an Occupational Therapist who can suggest pressure redistribution as often staying in one position can cause medical problems to arise.

Beyond that, OT’s can make recommendations for residents who have existing pressure sores or for residents who are at an increased risk for developing pressure sores. There can be many reasons for this increased risk: declining mobility, declining cognition, or even a medical diagnosis. Preventing sores from developing in the first place requires a multi-disciplinary approach where allied health professionals such as Occupational Therapists, dietitians, physiotherapists, and nurses work together in improving the resident’s positioning and comfort. The team approach in long term care is one of the best ways to ensure good health.

Equipment reassessments

While some people believe that all they must do is obtain the prescribed equipment, reassessment is critical. At regular intervals, an Occupational Therapist ensures that the equipment still meets the resident’s needs. In most cases, modifications or changes have to be made to the prescribed equipment in order to better fit it to the resident’s changing physical and cognitive needs. Your Occupational Therapist will ensure that as the individual’s needs change, the equipment he or she uses is appropriate.

As you can see, Occupational Therapists are extremely important in long term care facilities. A nursing home, retirement home, or senior center benefits greatly from having Occupational Therapy as part of the allied health approach for residents.

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