Occupational therapy in residential aged care

Mar 14, 2022 | Uncategorized

Occupational therapy is an important part of quality care in aged care. Its value has become even more evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and occupational therapists are in high demand within the aged care industry. But what exactly is occupational therapy and how does it help seniors in residential aged care?


What is occupational therapy in residential aged care?

The primary goal of an occupational therapist is to help people get the most out of their daily lives by participating to their fullest potential. This can mean many things to many different age groups but, for aged care, it normally means assisting with pain management. By reducing pain, occupational therapy can help seniors retain more independence and enjoy their favourite activities for longer.


The role of occupational therapists in aged care

Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to pain management because they understand that pain is not purely physical. A decline in mental health and mood can exacerbate or even cause pain, so occupational therapists in aged care treat both the body and the mind through tailored treatment sessions.

The pandemic has created new challenges in aged care, which has seen occupational therapists adapt their services and offer new strategies to improve pain management in aged care. Rather than simply offering an exercise regime, an occupational therapist’s role is quite diverse. They may use any of the following strategies, depending on each resident’s needs:

  • Helping residents keep in touch with loved ones via online platforms, like Zoom
  • Finding and downloading apps of interest for any residents who wish to do more with their phone or tablet
  • Spending time with residents doing what they enjoy. This could be chatting about their interests, life or family, including looking at photo albums, discussing shared interests, playing games, completing puzzles or creating art.
  • Assessment of current abilities and upper limb assessment
  • Assisting with physical activity. This could be taking a stroll through the gardens or supporting residents to complete an exercise program.
  • Relaxation therapy
  • Sleep assessment and strategies to improve sleep
  • Helping residents to develop new skills, particularly in self care
  • Providing adaptive strategies, like joint protection techniques and work–rest routines
  • Assessing mobility aids, customising where required, and helping residents use new equipment
  • Pressure care management
  • Continence management
  • Palliative care interventions
  • Advocating for residents when needed

These strategies can help improve mood, increase strength and stamina, improve overall health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of falls, all of which contribute to a fuller life with less pain.

Find the best aged care home in your area with Aged Care Decisions. We listen to your needs and find you residential aged care facilities that offer suitable care, including quality occupational therapists. Complete our online form or call us on 1300 775 870.


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Benefits of occupational therapy in residential aged care

Occupational therapy offers a whole range of benefits to seniors in residential aged care by enabling them to get the most out of everyday life. Benefits can include:

  • Tailored care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Better chronic pain management
  • Finding meaning in daily routines
  • Improved memory
  • Maintaining or improving independence
  • Better quality of life

Tailored care

Occupational therapists in aged care can perform assessments and interventions in a whole range of areas, like driving, daily tasks in the kitchen, self care, public transport, mobility and mobility aids, etc. Each person is assessed and supported based on their unique care needs, which ensures they get the most out of their occupational therapy sessions.


Many seniors develop conditions or disabilities that make day-to-day life more challenging. In fact, as much as 40% of people over 60 live with some form of disability. Occupational therapists provide treatment and education to minimise the effect of these conditions on daily life. They also recommend suitable mobility aids and assist residents with how to use them.

Chronic pain management

Chronic pain can make simple, day-to-day tasks an unpleasant chore, which negatively affects quality of life. Living with chronic pain can be extremely challenging and can cause sufferers to withdraw or lash out at others. Occupational therapists help by introducing healthier coping mechanisms, making chronic pain management easier and more successful.

Daily routine

Occupational therapy can help residents find daily routines that bring new meaning to each day. A therapist working in aged care will identify areas where residents need assistance and work with them on carrying out daily routines. This can include mobility aids to make daily routines possible.

Memory loss

Memory loss affects many seniors, especially those living in aged care homes and those with dementia. It presents many challenges, including a risk to health and safety. Occupational therapists can work with residents to improve their memory through memory games and activities. They can also set up each resident’s environment to better suit their needs, making it easier for them to navigate and find what they need.


Occupational therapy in residential aged care helps residents retain more independence for longer. This can improve mood and ensures residents are able to fully participate in their daily lives, garnering more overall enjoyment.

Quality of life

Occupational therapy can introduce fun into residents’ lives. Treatment sessions provide companionship and enjoyable activities that benefit the mind and body and give a sense of achievement, while improving the quality of life of residents within an aged care setting.

Physical therapy can include walks, stair work, puzzles and writing, while enjoying a chat. These activities have multiple benefits, including improved cognitive ability, fine and gross motor skills, social contact and mood. Regular activity can prevent or delay new mobility issues in the future, which is an important part of occupational therapy in aged care homes.

Mental health exercises are also an important part of occupational therapy to ensure residents do not need to face these challenges alone.

Occupational therapy offers a holistic approach that supports aged care residents in all areas where they require it. This provides the greatest chance of success in improving quality of life.


How does occupational therapy assist with pain management in residential aged care facilities?

In aged care facilities, occupational therapy assists residents with pain management in a variety of ways. This includes working with residents to improve mood by ensuring quality contact with friends and family, mental health exercises, physical therapy, cognitive therapy and companionship.

Residential aged care facilities offer plenty of opportunities for you or your loved one to thrive and live a quality life. Occupational therapy has become an important part of this success, mostly due to its holistic approach and effective strategies.

If you are considering an aged care facility for yourself or a loved one, Aged Care Decisions can help. Our free service matches your preferences with the most suitable aged care homes in your area. Our team can even check availability and set up tours to make it easier for you. Call us on 1300 775 870 or complete our online form.



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