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Ageing In Place: How Occupational Therapy Can Support You

By Apricus Health

3rd November 2023

As we get older and reach a certain stage of maturity, it’s apparent the tasks  we once took for granted might start to become more challenging.

From physical wellbeing  to cognitive sharpness, the changes can be gradual or profound and can extend from major endeavours to daily tasks. As we start to notice this decline, it can often lead us to seek additional support from close friends and family, to even the possibility of care provided by assisted living facilities.

However, most people will  choose to maintain their independence and safety, stay in their homes for as long as possible and take control of their daily lives – a concept aptly termed 'ageing in place'. To ensure those ageing in place maintain independence and safety, it's important to find the right support and make necessary adaptations to living arrangements and daily tasks; and that's where occupational therapists come in.

Table of Contents

The Role of Occupational Therapy in Ageing in Place

Occupational therapy plays a vital role by ensuring people of all ages can participate, independently and safely, in daily activities. It is through an Occupational Therapist (OT) - that recommendations and assessments are made to assist those seeking to maintain their independence and safety to prevent accidents that will, inevitably, impact their ability to stay at home for as long as possible. In helping older adults age in place, OTs can work with them  by assessing their needs, teaching them new skills and recommending modifications and equipment in and around  their home environment. By communicating with the clients , and visiting a person’s home, OTs can understand the daily activities they hope to do, the limitations or barriers that come with these activities and finally, ways they can engage with these activities more safely, independently and comfortably.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for older people

Prescribes essential knowledge, skills and strategies that promote safety and independence 

As people age, it can sometimes be  challenging for them to participate independently in daily life activities. An OT plays a role in understanding each person's distinct conditions, limitations and functional ability, in addition to assessing their home environment, to  create a carefully curated plan to help them address  challenges. This includes considering any cognitive, functional, physical or vision impairments they may have and recommending  appropriate support, resources, strategies or educational information that would benefit them.

One of the primary challenges as someone ages, is the increased risk of falls within the home environment. An occupational therapist works with clients  in teaching new skills and strategies that would help guide and equip them with essential information about safe falls prevention practices and strategies and can provide useful recommendations regarding equipment and modifications that will improve safety and quality of life.  

Provide crucial assessments of the home environment and their surroundings

Occupational therapists can evaluate a person's home to assess their living environment and make recommendations around  any areas of risk or concern. This may result in recommending simple home modifications, with further suggestions being made to encourage independent and safer living environments. Modifications can include:

  • Grabrails or handrails in around  the house or outdoor areas 
  • Night lights and soft lighting options
  • Accessible options for the bathroom
  • Safe furniture rearrangements to create more space
  • Ideas on making the garden and pathways more safe

Recommend assistive aids, devices and technology

Occupational therapists introduce clients to a range of equipment that make daily tasks much more manageable and keep you from having to ask others to help you do things that you once did independently. Keeping up to date with the latest technology and devices, OTs may recommend specific assistive equipment, such as:

  • Electric -lift chairs or beds, to help with getting in and out of a bed or chair independently
  • Gadgets and devices for the kitchen to help make tasks easier and safer 
  • Equipment for the shower, toilet and bathroom (did you know that the most dangerous room in the house is the bathroom?)
  • Slip-resistant mats and flooring
  • Items to make it easier and more comfortable when driving 

The Impacts of Ageing in Place 

According to the ABS’ findings in disability, ageing and carers in 2015, 94.8% of older Australians (over 65 years of age) were living at home, with one in 20 (5.2%) older Australians living in cared accommodations such as nursing homes. More than one quarter (26.8%) of all older people lived alone.

By working closely with an occupational therapist, you can gain the confidence to know that you have explored every option to be able to stay in your home for as long as possible whilst remaining as safe as possible You can:

  • Gain that same level of independence and autonomy, preventing the need for any age-care institutions or services to provide you with daily in-home support
  • Have that same level of privacy and familiarity, which can support emotional well-being and quality of life
  • Save any costs that come from relocating to assisted living or aged care facilities
  • Get personalised recommendations  with individualised advice by working with an occupational therapist

Embracing the Future of Occupational Therapy with Apricus Health

Ultimately, an occupational therapist will help find the best way to support a person's daily life, with safety and independence being the most critical factor in mind. By aligning the person’s  specific needs  with optimal strategies that will facilitate their daily activities with ease and confidence, an occupational therapist has an innate focus in helping people live life to the fullest, regardless of the circumstances they are in.  

At Apricus Health, we work closely with other organisations that facilitate ensuring you or your loved ones receive the utmost care available to them. Our occupational therapists have a specialised interest in all clients , including those living with dementia and/or at the end of their lives as we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional support in improving a person's overall quality of life at whatever stage of life they are at. Contact us today at any of our clinics, and let us help support  you across all life stages.