Leigh Ann Corso, OT, demonstrates using a reacher assistive device.
After a period of immobility, the body loses the muscle strength and endurance, balance, or cardiopulmonary stamina that it needs for the activities of daily living. The ability to move in and out of and sustain positions such as bending, twisting, or reaching are necessary for self-care performance.
Occupational therapy’s goal is to restore independence. However, after a long hospitalization, we must first meet the patient where their capabilities are and then adjust to support their unique needs.
Frequently, the individual may need training in the use of adaptive equipment. These are often long-handled tools to maximize their independence without compromising their safety. Reachers, dressing sticks, shoe-horns, sock aids, toileting aids, leg lifters, commodes, shower chairs, and bed rails are all examples of tools that can be integral to their treatment as they progress.
Modifying the Environment
We may also look at compensating through environmental modifications. For example, we may recommend that the patient dress lying down until they become strong enough to dress sitting up. Next they would dress with arm support until they are able to sit without a rail or an armrest in a chair, toilet, or at the edge of the bed.
By implementing strategies, the patient can conserve the energy that they will need for other tasks that are important to them.
In addition, the therapist will prescribe graded exercise to build the foundational skills needed for activities of daily living and reduce the patient’s risk for fall.
Education provided throughout the process will aim to decrease the risk for re-hospitalization and maximize the person’s ability to flourish in their home environment.