Occupational Therapy Tips for Home Modifications
When considering rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility, physical therapy or speech therapy are usually what come to mind. But as SKLD West Bloomfield occupational therapist Renee DuFresne jokes, “What’s the point of learning to use a walker if you’d have to do it naked?!”
What is Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists focus on balance, coordination, problem solving, pain reduction, fine motor skills, strengthening and many other factors that facilitate optimal quality of life.
Occupational therapy is where patients regain their independence. They master adaptive techniques that make it safe to get back to their previous level of functioning. It’s where patients learn how to get dressed again, where they learn to transfer from a wheelchair to a toilet, where they learn to use utensils again, and even where one of our recent younger patients learned to change his baby’s diapers again.
Occupational therapy is where patients regain their dignity. It’s what helps them get back home.
“We want to get you back to what you were doing before,” says Renee, “If you were playing guitar, we want to work toward that.”
How OT Works
OTs start by creating individualized, comprehensive therapy programs to focus on skills such as enhancing fine motor skills, improving gross grasp skills, trunk control, dynamic sitting balance and range of motion. The therapy varies for each patient, depending on his or her valued activities.
Home modifications are instrumental in allowing individuals to “age in place” and maximize their ability to participate in activities of daily living. The OT identifies barriers to discharge and then assists in modifications that allow patients to complete their daily routines. “Our focus is to facilitate increased safety, security and independence in the environment of their choice,” says Renee.
Following are four tips to make the transition to home easier and more successful.
1. Prevent falls. The best way to avoid readmission is to avoid falls. Simple adjustments like improving lighting, removing throw rugs and reducing clutter are all important. Consider adding adhesive traction to the bottom of the bath tub or shower, avoid placing objects on the stairs and be sure handrails aren’t loose.
2. Install adaptive equipment when necessary. Lowering counters and stairlifts can be pricey, but some adaptations are simple. Replacing door knobs with lever handles, for example, can be a simple change that makes a difference for individuals recovering from stroke paralysis.
3. Buy a reaching aid. A reacher or grabber, at little cost on Amazon, will not only impress the grandkids, but it helps individuals avoid bending over to pick up objects and standing on stools to reach for them.
4. Modify the bathroom. Adding a tub transfer bench, a raised toilet seat or bars in the bathroom are all home modifications that can help patients be safer and maintain dignity and independence once they return home. A bedside commode is another option to make the home easier.
For costly home modifications on a limited budget, explore community-based groups, such as Rebuilding Together, whose volunteers help repair and modify homes for those who can’t afford to do so. Contact us to find out more about rehab at SKLD facilities across Michigan.