Sub-Acute Care Team: The Occupational Therapist


The Occupational Therapist (OT) helps with a wide range of activities and people. Occupational therapists who work in senior rehab need to specialize in the field. The

Many people who choose to go into the field of occupational therapy do so because it is rewarding. It is a career where the occupational therapist really can make a change to a senior’s quality of  life and ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs).


How Long Did Your Occupational Therapist Study for?

In order to qualify, an occupational therapist has to get a Master’s degree in occupational therapy, plus take several courses in patient care. The courses include understanding research, anatomy and practical assistance.

The courses also include learning about new assistive technology. Science and technology are continuously pushing the boundaries of what is accepted practice. A patient can expect the occupational therapist to know about the latest developments.

The occupational therapist also has to get a State-level license or certificate.

You can expect that your occupational therapist to have good interpersonal skills and be gentle, yet firm and encouraging.

An occupational therapist who works with seniors, should have plenty of patience. Occupational therapists often need to write, draw and explain exercises and coping strategies to patients and their caregivers.


A Joint Effort

For senior rehab, the occupational therapist usually works together with the speech therapist and physical therapist. Following an acute event such as stroke, there would be additional members on the team. These include the neurologist and the dietitian, among others.

The senior patient benefits from the joint and integrated approach of these dedicated professionals.


How Can an Occupational Therapist Help a Patient?

The most inclusive description of what the OT does to help is: helps a patient maintain or improve the skills they need for independent living and daily tasks.

Well, we mentioned above that OT touches on many areas of expertise. Let’s look at a selection of these.

The occupational therapist works with patients who are/were ill, suffered an injury or are disabled. Often the occupational therapist practices everyday tasks, as a means of therapy.

‘Everyday tasks’ mean different things to different people. Some patients need help with:


  • motor skills
  • balance
  • coordination
  • eating skills
  • personal physical care
  • personal medical care
  • ADLs such as dressing, cooking and walking
  • driver evaluations for those who want to drive again
  • for the wheelchair bound: techniques to reduce pressure sores
  • exercises on an individualized level


Part of rehab occupational therapy for seniors is adapting their lifestyle following stroke. This includes learning to do things with use of one hand.

The occupational therapists work in a rehab setting. Of course, there are occupational therapists, who will do home visits. Home visits help a patient learn how to make adaptions to the home. For example, if a patient had a stroke and has reduced mobility, an OT might visit the home and suggest changes to reduce falls and increase accessibility.


Some Aims of the Occupational Therapist

The OT has many aims to benefit the patient. Firstly, they can give mental and psychological exercises. These help with memory and cognitive skills. Secondly, every senior is interested in maintaining or increasing their range of movement. The OT can help with that too. Thirdly, an OT program can help with vision problems. Forthly, it can include tips on managing chronic pain. Finally, knowing how to do the ADLs efficiently, can reduce the effects of arthritis or prevent it from getting worse.


Training the Caregiver

The occupational therapist provides training and explanation to both the patient and the patient’s caregiver. This would be the case for:

  • a patient who lives at home and has outpatient rehab, or
  • a patient who is a resident in a sub-acute or post-acute rehab center and has visiting family who takes care of them while they are next to the patient

The caregiver can encourage the senior adult to do their at-home exercises. Also, the caregiver can make sure that the senior adheres to the suggestions of the occupational therapist. Therefore, it is important that the caregiver is on the same page as the senior themsevles.


Occupational Therapy – Helps the Senior Patient Enjoy Life More

We all want to enjoy life.  It is all about finding the light and beauty in life, when it hides in the darkness.

So, the OT is there to help shine a light on the situation. He /she will encourage the patient to get the best they can out of life. Sometimes he / she would know when a patient should relax and accept things as they are.

The occupational therapist and patient make their own team. Yes, as the patient progresses, the occupational therapist cheers the patient on. This helps the patient to achieve the best they can in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.



when the road is long the occupational therapist shines light

When the road is long, the occupational therapist shines light, for the journey to recovery and greater independence.




Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash