Occupational therapy is designed to improve patients' lives by helping them regain the ability to perform important daily tasks after an illness, surgery, or accident. People of any age may need occupational therapy, but seniors make up the majority of patients – and they may also see the greatest results.
The goal of occupational therapy is a vital one: to remove barriers to independence that patients may be facing. Restoring independence and learning self-care skills are usually very attractive goals for patients, but there may still be times when frustration sets in. To get the most out of your therapy, or to help someone you care for, try these tips to stay motivated:
- Be patient with yourself and your progress. Give yourself time to learn new ways to do important tasks. You may see your therapist daily in the early days of your therapy, and the schedule may change to weekly after certain milestones are reached. Depending on your specific condition, you may need to continue with occupational therapy throughout your life. Know exactly what to expect by talking with your doctor and therapist.
- Stay involved in your treatment. Let your therapist know what types of tasks you want or need to learn to ensure they're included in your treatment plan.
- Keep your eyes on the goal. Your occupational therapist is focused on helping you learn new ways to take care of yourself so that you will need less help from others in the long term. Everyone craves independence, so picture yourself successfully mastering your occupational therapy tasks and continuing to live successfully on your own terms. Always keep moving forward.
- Don’t skip sessions with your therapist. It will only delay your progress. In addition, seeing a good occupational therapy professional will help you stay upbeat and motivated – like a coach. Hopefully you'll begin to look forward to seeing them each day or week.
- Do your "homework" everyday, even if you don’t feel like it. (Practice movements that your therapist asks you to do between appointments.) You can use your therapist as motivation again here – the therapist will notice if you skip your homework. Likewise, your therapist will recognize and celebrate with you all the progress you have made.
- Call in help if necessary. If you can’t get your motivation back within a short time, consider talking to a counselor or psychologist. You may be dealing with depression, and there are effective treatments to help you get back on track. Don't suffer in silence! And don't let anything interrupt your occupational therapy progress.
Occupational Therapy Improves a Variety of Conditions
Occupational therapists work with individuals who are recovering from, or adjusting to, physical and mental limitations caused by:
- Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- Joint replacement
- Cardiac events or coronary disease
- ...and many other ailments.
Mastering Tasks in New Ways with Individualized Treatment
Occupational therapists may help a patient learn to dress (or use a computer keyboard) after a finger amputation, for example. The therapist might help someone with dementia keep their brain active and provide new tools for memory retention. Tools might include a smartphone with speech recognition for making lists, setting alarms, and "remembering" phone numbers to make dialing easy. A therapist might train a hip replacement patient to use a walker safely and help them gain the arm strength and balance necessary to do so. Therapists may also train caregivers on methods to support the patient.
If you hit a bump in the road during your occupational therapy journey, put some of the above tips to work for you. The more effort you put in, the more benefit you'll receive.