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Residents rely on occupational therapy to regain everyday skills

When they are struggling with certain tasks, Parsons Presbyterian Manor residents can receive one-on-one assistance from Aegis Therapies®. They provide physical, speech and occupational therapy services to short- and long-term residents of our community.

Though most of us understand what physical and speech therapy entails, there is often some confusion about the role of occupational therapy in a senior living community, said Kaysha O’Daniel, director of therapy services for Aegis.

“Occupational therapy focuses on the activities of daily living. When seniors hear about occupational therapy, they may think, ‘I don’t have a job anymore, I don’t need that.’ But everyone needs to put clothes and shoes on every day and perform other activities of daily living,” Kaysha said. “Those are the kinds of skills our staff helps our residents regain.”

While physical therapy focuses on mobility and balance, which are largely determined by lower-body strength, occupational therapy is more focused on upper-body strength. It is also concerned with sequencing — that is, executing tasks that require a person to take multiple steps in a certain order.

Kaysha meets weekly with the director of nursing, and she enjoys “open communication” with the nursing staff. When someone notices a decline in a resident, they know to bring a therapist in to help. Kaysha noted that communication among the nursing and therapeutic staff is particularly important for residents who may not be able to ask for assistance themselves.

A recent example is an assisted living resident who gradually required a greater level of assistance from staff.

“It turned out that she had an illness that caused her to have a little bit of a setback,” Kaysha said.

The resident spent a few weeks working on regaining some strength with an occupational therapist, and that enabled her to return to where she was before her illness.

Occupational therapy begins with an evaluation.

“A lot of the evaluation is trying to figure out what their baseline is, what their prior level was, what their responsibilities were prior to their stay with us,” Kaysha said. “We want to get a good sense of where they were, so we can help get them back to that level or exceed that level. We like to exceed goals whenever possible.”

The evaluation is also a way for the therapist and resident to get to know each other.

“We want to get to know the residents on a personal level, so we can really tailor their therapy to their needs,” Kaysha said. “It’s also easier for a resident to participate in therapy when they feel comfortable (with the therapist).”

Kaysha feels strongly that when residents feel a sense of purpose, they are much more likely to meet their therapeutic goals. That purpose could be a pastime like quilting, spending time with grandchildren, or living independently again.

Either kind of therapy a resident requires, Kaysha and her staff are here to help.

“Between the three of us, we help people get back to whatever it is they like to do,” she said.

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