Occupational Therapy at Home: Can You Benefit?

Occupational therapy aims to help people suffering from mental, cognitive, psychological or physical impairments to cope with everyday life. The aim is to assist people to learn new skills that will help them to perform regular daily activities such as socializing, performing routine physical tasks and learning new things. Because occupational therapists help people with all manner of challenges, from cognitive to physical, a lot of people can benefit from therapy. Traditionally, occupational therapists work in their own offices of therapy or at hospitals, but occupational therapy at home is becoming an increasingly popular option.

What Is Occupational Therapy At Home?

Occupational therapy at home can be used to describe two entirely different kinds of treatment. Often times, people use the term to refer to “DIY therapy”. In other words, therapy activities that parents or loved ones perform with a child or family member at home. While these activities are a form of at-home occupational therapy, they don’t require a professional therapist to be present to oversee activities.

What many people don’t realize is that occupational therapy at home can also refer to a therapy session with a qualified occupational therapist. With the rise in popularity of home health care services, it’s becoming increasingly more common for occupational therapists to visit patients at their homes.

Benefits of Professional Occupational Therapy At Home

There are several benefits to receiving professional occupational therapy at home:

  • Patients with mobility challenges don’t need to go to an occupational therapy office or hospital for treatment
  • Costs are often lower than treatment in hospital
  • Patients suffering from anxiety have the comfort of a familiar environment
  • Save time traveling to and from therapy sessions
  • Trauma and stroke patients can relearn how to perform daily activities in their own home, meaning all environmental factors can be accounted for during therapy sessions

Seeing as one of the largest goals of occupational therapy is to help patients learn (or relearn) daily tasks, the home environment can provide the perfect space for therapy. After all, there are a broad range of daily tasks that patients must perform at home each day.

What Is an Occupation in Occupational Therapy?

In terms of occupational therapy, the word “occupation” can refer any daily activity a patient needs to, is expected to or wants to perform. The entire purpose of therapy is to help patients achieve the goal of performing certain occupations through the following methods:

  • Equipping a patient with the knowledge or skill to perform a desired occupation
  • Adjusting a patient’s environment to help him/her perform an occupation

In most cases occupational therapists will strive to help patients perform occupations without the need to adjust the environment. Therapists will only adjust a patient’s environment in cases where the patient is physically or cognitively unable to function in a normal environment.

Seeing as an occupation can be defined as any activity a patients needs or wants to perform, it can include almost anything such as:

  • Studying and learning activities for school
  • Routine housework activities
  • Self-grooming activities
  • Fine motor activities, such as typing or writing
  • Leisure activities, such as participating in sports or playing a musical instrument

In some cases, occupational therapy can be required to help a patient perform basic tasks such as eating. Patients don’t always need occupational therapy to cope with everyday life, however. Sometimes occupational therapy can be optional to improve a patient’s ability to perform a non-essential task, such as sports,

Who Can Benefit from Occupational Therapy?

Anyone struggling to perform certain daily activities can benefit from occupational therapy. Most occupational therapy patients face cognitive or physical challenges that they can learn to live with through a professional therapy program.

Common physical challenges that call for occupational therapy could include:

  • Amputation recovery
  • Rehabilitation after a stroke
  • Learning to live with birth defects
  • Recovery after injuries to the spinal cord
  • Adjusting to loss of sight or hearing (sensory impairment)
  • Adapting to neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or dementia
  • Regaining lost movement of muscles after injury or surgery

In the case of spinal cord injuries, occupational therapy could aim to help patients regain lost function of limbs. In cases of severe injury, therapy might focus on teaching patients to live with paraplegia rather than regaining recovery of movement.

Occupational therapy for cognitive, mental and psychological conditions could include:

  • Helping patients with age-related mental challenges
  • Assisting children with learning disabilities to study effectively
  • Aiding children and adults to cope with social challenges related to autism
  • Teaching persons with mental health disorders to function in everyday life

Therapy for patients with mental health issues could focus on learning skills to manage emotions more effectively, or overcoming fears and anxiety through practical tasks. It should be noted that occupational therapy can be part of a mental health program, but should be combined with other forms of mental health care, such as psychological treatment.

When it comes to occupational therapy for learning difficulties and autism, a therapist might make use of techniques that help teach certain tasks, helping children learn to overcome the challenges associated with their respective conditions.

At-Home Occupational Therapy Activities and Plans

Parents with children who suffer from learning disorders and autism can apply some occupational therapy techniques into daily activities to help children adapt with their unique challenges. Examples could include creating rubrics or applying techniques to help children cope with emotions. Although such therapy techniques can be self-made, occupational therapists are specialized in creating therapy plans for a wide range of physical and cognitive conditions.

Occupational therapists will often assign patients and families with exercises and practices they can perform between therapy sessions. These will often be part on an ongoing occupational therapy program and progress from one therapy session to another will serve as an important method of analyzing progress.

Of course, it’s imperative that patients and their loved ones adhere to the instructions given by their occupational therapists for at-home activities between sessions. Often, most patient progress isn’t made during therapy sessions. Instead, the role of the occupational therapist is to set out a recovery plan for the patient and family. If the patient wishes to make any substantial progress through occupational therapy, the plan set out by the therapist should be strictly followed.

Your occupational therapist will often change your at-home treatment plan between therapy sessions to account for progress made (increase the difficulty of activities), or to overcome current obstacles in effectively applying therapy.

Can Your Loved One Benefit from Occupational Therapy?

A magnificently broad range of conditions can be addressed through occupational therapy, far more than mentioned in this article.

Various conditions relating to old-age, developmental disorders and physical disability can benefit from professional occupational treatment therapy.

Occupational therapists can even assist in treating obesity by helping patients transition to healthy lifestyle changes. Therapy can also focus on helping diabetic patients adapt to caring for themselves. This could mean helping patients learn what is expected of them in terms of healthy living and regulating their health with diabetes.

Simply put, occupational therapists help people to live life on a practical level. This rule applies regardless of whether someone is facing practical obstacles related to loss of an ability, or complex challenges related to difficulty with self-regulation.

If you suspect that you or a loved one could benefit from occupational therapy, there’s no harm in asking for professional advice. An occupational therapist will be able to advise you on whether you or a loved one could benefit from therapy.

In most cases, occupational therapy will be part of a larger treatment program, which could include physician care, psychological treatment, or even physical therapy. If you’re currently seeing a health professional, such as a doctor, you can ask them about incorporating occupational therapy into your current treatment program.

Rozanne WildsOccupational Therapy at Home: Can You Benefit?