What is Occupational Therapy?

Supporting people to live life to the fullest!

Occupational Therapists work in a variety of settings to support people to regain and maximize their ability to participate in daily activities, following a disruption caused by injury, illness or simply due to aging. From issues related to home accessibility (e.g. getting in and out of the shower, up and down stairs) to returning to work after an injury or accident, Occupational Therapists use scientifically validated assessment tools to identify the underlying causes of problems and then develop plans to restore functioning. This may involve making adaptations to the environment or the task, providing education to improve a person’s skills, or helping people to use adaptive aids and equipment, such as wheelchairs or transfer aids. Occupational Therapists take the time to really understand a person’s unique abilities and use evidence-based interventions to solve problems. Occupational Therapy is a regulated healthcare profession governed by the College of Occupational Therapy British Columbia.

Occupational Therapy Services

Comprehensive testing to measure your thinking abilities.

Whether you feel as fit as a fiddle, as sharp as a tack, or whether you feel concerned about changes in your thinking, a cognitive assessment may be right for you. Cognitive assessments are tests developed through extensive research to measure your brain-based abilities. Like a doctor measuring your vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing quality, cognitive assessments can objectively measure abilities of the brain such as attention, memory and language skills. What’s more, comprehensive assessments can also measure some physical abilities such as balance and hearing as well. With baseline data on your current cognitive abilities gathered through testing, you will be able to determine if action needs to be taken to maintain, improve, and/or maximize your thinking skills. If you are curious as to what a cognitive assessment is like, click on the word CREYOS below, to get a flavour of this gold standard assessment tool: CREYOS

Suitable for: Anyone concerned about changes in their cognition; people with a diagnosis of concussion, traumatic brain injury, mild cognitive impairment, neurocognitive disorders, dementia, neurological and mental health conditions; athletes or students requiring a healthy baseline for comparison in the event of head injury; anyone wanting baseline data prior to engaging in a cognitive training program.

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid options.

Custom-designed treatment to improve your thinking abilities

Cognitive Rehab programs are typically implemented following cognitive assessment, after identification of specific cognitive challenges. The purpose of a cognitive rehab program is to improve cognitive abilities (e.g. language fluency, memory etc.) in order to increase a person’s ability to carry out meaningful tasks and activities (e.g. work duties, lunch at the seniors’ centre etc.). While specific cognitive abilities are targeted and trained repetitively like a hockey player might train repetitively to improve a specific skill such as a slapshot, the overall aim is to ensure these improvements generalize to greater success in useful and valued daily activities. At the foundation of cognitive rehab programs is the concept of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change itself if given specific and targeted stimulation. Cognitive Rehab programs typically involve an educational component and guidance from the Occupational Therapist, as well as clients participating in independent training (aka homework) several times per week.

Suitable for: Anyone wanting to improve their cognitive abilities; people experiencing cognitive limitations due to concussion, traumatic head injury, mild cognitive impairment, neurocognitive disorders, dementia, neurological and mental health conditions.

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid.

A non-invasive, evidence-based program that improves your brain’s abilities

CST is a treatment developed by University College London in England. It is an evidence-based program which has shown to be as effective as dementia medication, for improving certain cognitive abilities and having lasting affects. Participants and their loved ones typically rate the program highly. A typical CST session involves the Occupational Therapist facilitator introducing a topic and asking questions to gather the participants thoughts and opinions, rather than focussing on recall of facts and knowledge, which may be lacking and a potential source of anxiety. Through guided conversation and use of repetitive elements including exercise, singing and humour (yes, it’s supposed to be fun!), participants have a supportive environment to express themselves, thereby stimulating different parts of the brain. While primarily developed as an intervention for dementia populations, CST is showing promise as a treatment for people with other neurological conditions affecting cognitive abilities (such as Parkinson’s Disease). CST can be administered in-person or remotely; individually or in small groups.

Suitable for: people with a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment, mild to moderate dementia, neurocognitive disorder and other neurological disorders affecting cognition; older adults concerned about decreases in their cognitive abilities.

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid

Should you stay or should you go?

Whether you are dealing with a sudden-onset medical condition (e.g. spinal cord injury, stroke etc.), a condition with more gradual functional changes (Parkinson’s disease, MS etc.), you may be faced with considering whether to modify your current home or moving to a place that is more suitable to your current and/or future needs. Either way, there is a lot of money and life disruption at stake so it’s important to get this decision right. Getting it right the first time will prevent disruptive and costly future renovations and moves, and maximize your quality of life. It’s important that your space works for you, rather than you adapting your lifestyle to your less-than-ideal home.

Suitable for: People with sudden-onset injuries (e.g. spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, amputation etc.) including Medical-Legal Assessments; progressive onset conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, MS, dementia, arthritis, chronic pain); anyone thinking of moving and/or renovating and being proactive in considering various options.

Service delivery: In-person and hybrid (remote/in-person) options.

Aging in your own home successfully takes some planning.

It’s no surprise that the vast majority of older adults express the wish to stay in their own homes for the rest of their lives, rather than spending their last years in a long term care facility. However, as a person’s abilities change over time, the home also needs to be adapted for successful aging – rather than the physical environment becoming a hindrance. There’s a lot to think about – accessibility, personal and physical safety and security, financial concerns etc. A comprehensive home assessment from an Age-Safe Canada Senior Home Safety Specialist is the home equivalent of taking your car to the mechanic to get it fully checked over prior to taking a long road trip! The home safety assessment will identify areas of concern so you can formulate an action plan to maximize the likelihood of successful aging at home. The assessment will consider the interior and exterior physical environment in the context of normal age-related challenges as well as in the context of living with specific medical conditions such as dementia. There will be discussion of crime prevention (e.g. burglary, scams etc.), fire prevention, and Senior exploitation.

A BC Government-funded program to help people modify their homes to changing health needs

Did you know that BC Housing offers eligible people with low to moderate level incomes and permanent disabilities up to $17,500 over the course of a lifetime in funding for home modifications to improve accessibility and safety? Not only will the Rebate for Accessible Home Adaptions (RAHA) program provide rebates for modifications such as stair lifts and bathroom conversions (e.g. bath to walk/roll in shower etc.), it will also refund program participants for using an Occupational Therapist to conduct an assessment in your home. The aim of the program is to keep people with disabilities and declining functioning at home, preventing the need to move to public care facilities. However, deciding what modifications need to be made, which products to use, which vendors to use, and when to make the changes can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why the RAHA program pays for an Occupational Therapist to help with the process. 

Suitable for: people with low to moderate incomes with permanent disabilities (see RAHA eligibility criteria)

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid

Falls can be devastating – though most falls can be prevented; find out how.

If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s the tendency to worry about my elderly mom falling and injuring herself. I’ve seen through my work with older adults how devastating falls can be in rapidly accelerating a decline in quality of life and independence. When people are also struggling with other aspects of aging, major injuries can be hard to recover from and often, people do not return to their pre-fall abilities. Becoming mostly house-bound or being waitlisted for a long-term care facility often results. However, if the fall risk factors are assessed and actions taken to minimize these factors, the likelihood of falls can be reduced dramatically (reducing the sleep disruption for all!). The Fall Prevention consultation briefly assesses a person’s fall risk using state of the art tools, provides education on fall prevention, and develops a personalized plan of action to mitigate fall risk factors.

Suitable for: people with progressive conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia etc.); anyone worry about falling; anyone worried about their elderly parents falling (or falling again!); people wanting to be proactive and prevent falling being a significant risk in the future.

Supporting independence and autonomy in your older age years

I have seen through personal experience how people who are great planners and well-intentioned, do not give adequate thought to how they want to live the older years of their lives until the inevitable end. Most people don’t even want to think or talk about aging and death – the result being that practical realities are not considered until it is too late and personal autonomy has been lost. This leads to sadness and dissatisfaction for the person concerned but it can also place a devastating burden on the adult children – the so-called ‘Sandwich Generation’. The adult children must navigate their parents’ often urgent problems while also juggling the demands of their work and own family affairs. With proactive thinking, frank discussions and planning, the aging process can and should be a smooth and satisfying process right until the end with a person’s dignity and autonomy being maximized throughout. However, this will not happen if left to chance or with vague planning for the future. Aging Well consultations aim to start these difficult and often taboo conversations sooner rather than later to get the ball rolling on changing the outcomes for the future. The consultation will make families aware of the various issues they need to consider prior to it being too late and risking being sucked into the quagmire of medical, legal, social and ethical complications. If you are feeling awkward talking about these difficult issues now, the likelihood is, it’s only going to get harder as physical and cognitive abilities fade and options become more limited. You’ve heard it said that the ‘early bird catches the worm’; with Aging Well consultations, this early bird (i.e. you and your family!) will be able to choose who catches the worm, what type of worm it catches, where and how it will eat the worm and who will clean up the mess afterwards! I could go on, but you get the point! Ideally, all supportive family members should be involved in these discussions.

Suitable for: Anyone that’s aging! But probably more relevant for people over 65; adults with parents over 65; adults living at distance from their parents (i.e. a different Province or different country).

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid

Harnessing technology is a necessity for bridging the care provision shortages – jump on board the tech train to get ahead of the game!

The statistics regarding the numbers of older adults that will require care over the next couple of decades and corresponding lack of care professionals to provide the necessary care are staggering! Couple this with health policy moving away from provision of facility care, to encouraging aging at home, where more one-to-one care will be required and the issue seems even more stark. Our choices are to either curl up in a ball and hope something miraculous happens (spoiler: it won’t!) or embrace the amazing world of technology to bridge the care provision-to-needs gap. It sounds futuristic to talk about robots carrying out menial tasks around the home and providing meaningful company to seniors who are otherwise lonely and isolated, but this is already happening – and happening to great success – around the world. For the first time, large companies such as Google and Amazon are creating smart products specifically with older adults in mind. Homes can become smart, efficient and effortless – no need to worry about whether the door is locked, whether the stove is turned off, whether there will be sufficient lighting in the hallway for nighttime bathroom visits, because smart devices will take care of that for you. The pandemic taught us that having ways to connect with family and friends, as well as having a source of leisure and recreation that can be brought into our homes remotely – negating transport difficulties, lack of resources in smaller communities, and infection exposure for people with health vulnerabilities – is more important than ever. The Age Tech consultation will explain how you can harness technology to reduce risk and worry from your life (and from your adult children), resulting in you having more mental energy to spend on things that really matter and improve your quality of life. Age Tech consultations can be carried out with individuals, couples or small groups.

Suitable for: older adults who are contemplating bringing age-specific technologies into their lives but don’t know where to start; adults who want to support their parents in bringing technology into their lives for the benefit of the whole family, but also don’t know much more than Alexa and Roomba.

Service delivery: in-person, remotely or hybrid