Interview: Occupational Therapy in Assisted Living Facilities

Learn about the important role occupational therapists play at assisted living facilities.

Interviewee: Irene Tipton
Contract Occupational Therapist
Seattle, WA

Assisted living facilities are home to hundreds of thousands of U.S. seniors and workplace to many health and custodial care workers nationwide. An integral but often overlooked employee at assisted living facilities is the occupational therapist (OT). OTs serve senior populations at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, assessing their strengths and training them to function as independently as possible.

Experience Working for Dozens of Assisted Living Facilities

Irene Tipton has worked as an occupational therapist in the greater Seattle area for nearly 30 years. Instead of choosing a single assisted living facility, she opted for the flexibility of serving as a contract OT, working at upwards of 40 long-term care facilities during her career. Assignments that last anywhere from one day to six months in duration fill her days with a variety of challenges and rewards. And now we can profit from her varied experience as she describes the benefits that occupational therapy brings to assisted living facilities.

Occupational Therapy in Assisted Living Facilities

Irene estimates that just under 10 percent of residents at assisted living facilities receive occupational therapy on a regular basis. However, all residents utilize OT services at some point in their residency. Even those seniors who are largely self-sufficient receive an assessment from a nurse upon entry to the facility. Then the nurse contacts the OT to provide any adaptive equipment and training that might help them thrive with as much autonomy as possible.

Residents may need to see occupational therapists at intervals throughout their stay in assisted living facilities. Some need help adjusting after a fall, stroke or other debilitating physical experience. Others receive assistance from OTs when they need a new type of walker or wheelchair, or if they start having trouble with tasks that they used to perform with ease.

Typical Equipment Used in Assisted Living Facilities

Though residents at assisted living facilities are often quite independent, many benefit from a number of adaptive equipment pieces that Irene commonly recommends. "Reachers," "dressing sticks," "sock aids," long shoe horns, raised toilet seats and a multitude of bathtub benches can all help relieve chronic pain in residents and decrease fall rates at assisted living facilities. She also recommends a variety of walkers and wheelchairs to patients depending on their level of need.

How Assisted Living Facilities Benefit from OT

While residents of assisted living facilities do benefit from the equipment Irene recommends, occupational therapy is much more than a referral program for adaptive devices. OTs like Irene are trained to assess, encourage, train and assist their patients throughout their lifespan, helping with typical activities of daily living as well as special circumstances. Empowering aging individuals to take their capabilities into their own hands gives them confidence and joy as they live out their lives in assisted living facilities.

Find Assisted Living Facilities

Caring occupational therapists staff assisted living facilities across the nation. If you think it's time to find senior care, we can help you find an assisted living facility near you that offers opportunities for you or your loved one to thrive. For free personalized help, just call the toll-free number above, and we'll walk you through the process, helping you find that perfect fit facility. Or for more online information, search our detailed senior care directory or browse through our helpful assisted living information.