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Five Occupational Therapy Treatments You Don’t Need

Five Occupational Therapy Treatments You Don’t Need

Occupational therapy can be very helpful when you, or a loved one, are recovering from illness, injury or surgery.

Occupational therapists (OT) help individuals regain the ability to participate in activities of daily living like making meals, doing the laundry and returning to work.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) says that the goal of occupational therapy for adults is two-fold. It helps:

  1. People recovering from an accident or injury get back to doing what they want to do
  2. Older adults safely stay as independent as possible.

Occupational therapists (OT) achieve these goals by making tasks easier.

In some cases they may teach people to conduct tasks differently like folding the laundry by laying it on the bed instead of holding it in front of them.

In other cases, they may introduce the use of tools such as button fasteners, or assistive devices like grab bars in the bathroom.

It is the responsibility of an OT to create an occupational therapy plan based on a person’s individual abilities and limitations, and specific to the activities of his or her daily life.

However, in some cases, treatments may be recommended that have no basis in their daily lives and have no effect on the individual’s ability to complete daily tasks.

In fact, the AOTA says that in some cases the treatments may make physical symptoms worse or cause them to last longer.

The association is so concerned about this issue that it launched the “Choosing Wisely” campaign to educate people about the need to question five specific treatments, should an OT recommend them.

Non-Purposeful Activities

The OT should provide therapy that assists with activities specific to your activities of daily living, rather than a general therapeutic exercise.

For example, if an individual can stand without problems, therapy that addresses standing should not be used.

However, if cooking is an important part of the day, then the OT should use therapy that helps the individual to prepare light meals.

It is also an opportunity for the OT to assess what the individual can, and cannot, do during the process of cooking.

Does the person have the hand strength necessary to grab and hold onto spoons? Can he or she reach the cabinets? Should pots be moved because bending over to retrieve them creates a balance issue?

Sensory Interventions without a Diagnosis

Sensory interventions help individuals accept light, noises, textures, tastes and other sensory stimuli that may be agitating or disruptive.

However, an OT should not suggest sensory interventions unless a formal assessment has been conducted and the individual experiences specific, documented sensory issues.

Physical Agent Modalities (PAMs) without Purposeful Activity

PAMs use heat, cold, mechanical tools and other devices to reduce pain.

However, OTs should not use these devices separate from occupational therapy activities. In other words, an OT can use one of these devices to reduce an individual’s pain so they can participate in OT, but should not using it without an accompanying activity.

Overhead Pulleys

These devices are used to help people address weakness on one side of the body.

However, pulleys can also cause injury and increase pain. OTs should recommend range-of-motion exercises to address the weakness and should not use overhead pulleys.

Cognitive-Based Interventions not tied to Occupational Performance

Cognitive based interventions should not be used unless they are accompanied by an occupational therapy exercise.

It is important for the OT to assess the individual’s ability to process information during recovery but it should be done through occupational therapy exercises.

Meaningful activities like choosing meals and creating a grocery list can help to assess if the individual is ready to go to the grocery store alone.

Workbooks and computer training are not useful cognitive based interventions.

Occupational therapy is very helpful in returning to life, work and recreation after illness, injury or surgery.

However, it should be conducted responsibly and according to the guidelines of the AOTA.

Make sure the OT you work with is aware of the guidelines published in the Choosing Wisely campaign, and does not recommend these five tactics for you or a loved one.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices in Campbell, CAPalo Alto, CAPleasanton, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.



Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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