Occupational therapists play a key role in providing aged care services to older people—both in the community and in residential aged care facilities. Occupational therapists work with older people with age-related conditions such as poor balance/coordination, memory loss, confusion, vision loss and hearing loss, which lead to changes in their ability to participate in the meaningful activities of everyday life.

Occupational therapists help older people to maintain their participation by working with them to:

  • Prevent falls
  • Achieve a safer, more accessible home
  • Use equipment that can assist with mobility and everyday living (e.g. shower rails, wheelchairs)
  • Improve mobility and function by prescribing a range of adaptive strategies, such as joint protection techniques and work/rest routines
  • Plan for the change of life role that comes with retirement, or assess and advise on changes to the workplace that may enable people to remain in work for longer
  • Provide education and advice to cope with age-specific illnesses such as dementia
  • Participate in leisure activities and re-engage in social activities

The demand for aged care workers from various disciplines will inevitably increase in the coming years as a result of Australia’s ageing population. Occupational therapists work in a range of aged care settings, including:

Acute care (hospitals and rehabilitation centres)

  • Inpatient hospital or rehabilitative care for new conditions, a worsening disease or following a traumatic event
  • Occupational therapists assess current abilities and develop plans to maintain optimum function and independence. They plan for your discharge and refer to community services for ongoing management

Community care

  • Services run by community health organisations and private practices for reablement/prevention of functional decline, assessments for home modifications, falls prevention strategies, assistive technology/equipment prescription, public transport assessment and intervention, driving assessments, and functional assessments of daily activities (e.g. kitchen tasks) with interventions aimed at maintaining independence
  • Speak to your doctor or a private practice OT to access these community care services

Residential care

  • Support for older people who can no longer live at home
  • Services include assessment of current abilities and intervention plans, strategies to maintain a meaningful daily routine, falls prevention, management of the environment to reduce challenging behaviours, palliative care interventions, pain management, pressure care management, relaxation therapy, sleep assessment/strategies, continence management and upper limb assessment

How do I access aged care services?

My Aged Care (MAC) is the main entry point to government-funded aged care services in Australia. My Aged Care provides information about aged care services to consumers, family members and carers, as well as service providers and health professionals. For more information about the services available, and to find out if you are eligible for funding, visit www.myagedcare.gov.au or call 1800 200 422.