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Occupational Therapy

Self-care

The area of self-care encompasses all of the tasks an individual does throughout the day to look after his or herself. It includes activities such as personal care, functional mobility, and community management. Personal care includes such tasks as feeding oneself, bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, and toileting. Activities involved in community management may include driving, taking public transportation, grocery shopping, completing community errands, and managing one's finances.

The aging process or disabilities affecting an older person may lead to difficulties in completing self-care occupations. For example, decreased balance or strength may make it difficult for older people to get about their home or community independently and safely. Disabilities such as arthritis can make seemingly simple tasks such as washing one's feet or doing up buttons or zippers extremely difficult. The onset of a dementia such as Alzheimer's may impact a person's ability to carry out effectively personal care activities or to manage their finances.

Occupational therapists play a valuable role in addressing the difficulties encountered in performing self care occupations as a person ages. The occupational therapist can assess the client's ability to complete a chosen occupation, such as bathing. During the assessment process, the therapist needs to consider a variety of factors including the client's goals, individual abilities and limitations, the environment, and the nature of the task itself. Depending on the situation, intervention may focus on the individual, adapting the environment, or modifying the task. For example, a goal identified by a client may be to regain independence with bathing. In this situation the therapist may work to help the client to develop the strength needed to get in and out of the tub, they may recommend modifying the environment to include an assistive aid such as a grab bar, or suggest the client consider adapting the task by sitting on a bath chair. Regardless of the method of intervention the focus is on enabling the clients to reach their goals, in this example independence with bathing.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 3Occupational Therapy - Self-care, Productivity, Leisure, Summary