Occupational Therapy for older people

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists (OTs) aim to enable older people to make the most of their abilities to perform daily activities and remain as independent as possible.OTs work with people who have physical and/or mental health problems. OTs work in a range of health care settings, as well as in the community

When would my ageing parent see an occupational therapist?

  • If your parent is admitted to hospital, an OT should assess them before they are discharged.
  • This assessment will normally include agreeing goals with the patient and their carer to  develop a patient-specific treatment programme, aimed at  achieving maximum functional ability once they leave hospital
  • Your parent will receive a report outlining some recommendations, which may include the provision of adaptive, or assistive equipment for use at home
  • This assistance might be provided by the hospital, your parent’s local council, or will need to be purchased privately. This will depend on local policies in their area

How can occupational therapy help my ageing parent?

Below are some examples of how an OT may work with an older person to help them keep active and perform their daily routines:

  • Teach a person with arthritis to protect the joints and conserve energy
  • Help a person with limited range of movement to do stretching exercises and use  adaptive equipment, such as a sponge with a long handle
  • Train a person with an amputation to put a prosthesis on and off
  • Help a person with low vision adapt the environment to avoid glare and increase colour contrast
  • Help a person with memory impairment to organize by labeling drawers and cabinets

How OT can help older people with pain management?

  • Assess pain and learn about a person’s interests and usual routines to build up their stamina gradually, so they can carry on with their daily activities
  • Help to schedule activities to include rest periods
  • Demonstrate techniques to help a person overcome pain, whilst remaining active
  • Show a person how to use assistive equipment and technology
  • Develop a daily routine to help prioritise activities
  • Provide coping strategies, such as distraction techniques and visual imagery
  • Identify activities that a particular person will find enjoyable or relaxing, which may help to ease their pain

How OT can help older people with dementia?

It has been shown in research that leisure activities, which provide intellectual and social stimulation, protect against dementia. It is, therefore, important for older adults to participate in mentally, socially and physically stimulating activities, as this may postpone the onset of dementia

An occupational therapist can help with dementia by:

  • Providing help and training with managing daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, eating
  • Advising on participating in a favourite hobby
  • Providing activities to minimise problems with memory and so help those with dementia stay at home longer
  • Advising and recommending electronic assistive technology, equipment and adaptations to enable service users to retain independence, reduce care costs and remain safe at home
  • Providing appropriate exercise or other activities that are graded to an individual’s capabilities to increase their quality of life, preserve their identity and provide them with a positive emotional outlet
  • Advising carers on how to support someone living with dementia
  • Improving environmental design which can help compensate for impaired memory and learning and reasoning skills.
  • Helping reduce levels of stress experienced by people with dementia and their carers

OT can help your parent adapt their home

OT can help your ageing parent to adapt their home environment through the provision of equipment, or house adaptations to meet their needs This work is carried out in close collaboration with district councils and NHS trusts

OTs can also:

  • Advise your elderly parent and their carer on the best ways to manage at home
  • Help your elderly relative to be as independent as possible, e.g. with personal care, cooking etc.
  • Advise about equipment, which may help you at home and provide some items on loan.
  • Advise on suitable housing and ways of adapting their home to meet their needs
  • Each council has different rules, but adaptations can be carried out on owner- occupied property and council-owned property
  • Housing Associations are also able to carry out adaptations to their own propertySome councils can carry out adaptations free of charge, if your elderly relative is a council tenant.
  • If your ageing parent wants to be considered for a grant towards adapting their home, the OT will refer you to the Adult & Community Services Occupational Therapy service for assessment

Note: Do not start adaptation work before you have had an assessment, as any help cannot be given in retrospect

On-going occupational therapy

Your elderly relative may be referred for ongoing treatment,  either as an outpatient at the hospital, or to the local community OT services, who will visit them at home,They will be assessed and given a treatment plan.This is tailored to meet their individual needs

How do I find an occupational therapist?

You can find a list of registered OTs in your area and some useful leaflets through the OT professional website at www.cot.co.uk

myageingparent.com has teamed up with Design for Independence Ltd, a private specialist housing occupational therapy company, to help your elderly relatives adapt their home to maintain their independence

Get help now by calling 01799 588056 and quoting ‘myageingparent’

Or fill in the form for more information

Please note that Design for Independence do not provide rehab sessions or services.

Please note that Design for Independence are unable to provide information regarding  local authority provision and eligibility criteria for public funds; please contact your local authority directly for this information.

Disclaimer: All services are provided by Design for Independence and myageingparent.com has no responsibility or liability for the products or services provided by Design for Independence. All requests and complaints should be addressed directly to Design for Independence. myageingparent.com bears no responsibility for goods and services purchased via third parties featured on this website.


  1. Parkinson’s diagnosis and treatment | My Ageing Parent says:

    June 17th, 2012 at 2:40 pm (#)

    […] Occupational therapists are health professionals who help people with mobility problems to achieve maximum function and independence […]

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