Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Occupational Therapists Help Modify Homes for Life

I love working with occupational therapists. Why? Because we have the same goal of helping people live longer, fuller and more comfortable lives at home. 

Occupational therapists are big picture experts.  Let’s take Mary.  She’s 85, lives at home and is challenged with Parkinson’s.  Sue, her occupational therapist, assesses her physical strengths and weaknesses, how the natural aging process is affecting her (things like eyesight and hearing that affect everyone over time), her medical condition and any psychological issues.  And the psychological part doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Mary—it could be just the typical fears of losing control over her own life and the lack of privacy that comes from depending on others. 

Sue not only wants to understand Mary’s self-care needs, but also what she wants to do—hobbies, leisure and even work activities.  Central to the occupational therapists’ profession is the belief that people need to be engaged in occupation.  And this belief is supported by research conducted by Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones,” who reports that people who have a purpose and know why they wake up in the morning increase their life expectancy by 7 years.  This doesn’t mean that Mary has to be changing the world.  But she may just want spend time with her grandchildren passing on the wisdom of her years.  Or, perhaps, she wants to read the newspaper and stay up to date on current events so she can be a model citizen.

Now that Sue knows what Mary wants and needs to do, she looks at her home to determine if anything is hindering Mary from doing what she needs and wants to do, and assesses how to make life easier. That’s where companies like 1 Call Bath Solutions come in.  As a certified aging in place contractor, we have a wealth of training and experience in remodeling homes for life.  Plus we stay up to date on the latest products to help people overcome physical challenges in their homes.  While Sue is developing her assessment, we’re checking out load-bearing walls and flooring stability.  Together we can develop a customized remodeling plan, as well as product recommendations, that enable Mary to live happily at home and spending time with her grandchildren.

Since people with Parkinson’s can have difficulty getting up from some chairs, Sue might recommend purchasing a lift chair.  Another little helper we love is a Tush Push Toilet Lift because it enables Mary to regain her privacy in the bathroom.  If you know what a lift chair does, then you know what the Tush Push Toilet Lift does.  It will gently raise Mary to standing position at the push of a button.

Mary is not as stable as she used to be and we don’t want her to trip and fall. Together we recommend getting rid of all the throw rugs and removing door sills, invitations to stumble.   Mary is also at risk of falling in the bathroom.  So we recommend a walk-in tub for a luxurious soak and a walk-in shower for those days when Mary doesn’t have quite so much time.  And, of course, grab bars are in order.

Once we’ve remodeled, it’s not over.   It’s time for Sue to teach Mary how to use her walk-in tub, walk-in shower stall, lift chair and Tush Push Toilet Lift safely.  We want Mary to feel totally comfortable with the modifications so she can live comfortably and well at home for as long as possible.  She’s also going to work with the family to teach them patience.  Because of diminished motor coordination, it’s going to take Mary longer to do everyday tasks like eating and dressing.  That’s OK. Mary doesn’t have to adhere to her former schedule.  Sue counsels the family to give Mary the time she needs and enable her to be as independent as possible.

If you’re an occupational therapist, have you ever worked with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist?  What was the experience like?

What products have made a difference in the lives of the people you care for?  A walk-in shower stall?  A Tush Push Toilet Lift?  A walk-in bath tub?  Tell us about your successes.

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