Aging in Style with Lori Williams
Aging in Style with Lori Williams

Episode · 1 month ago

086. Occupational Therapy: How it improves the quality of seniors' lives


With the right tools and support, anyone can overcome barriers and have a life worth living. That’s the goal of occupational therapists – like guest Heidi Huynh, OTR, CTRS.

Heidi is an occupational therapist that has spent years working with adults in their 50s and into their 100s in a variety of settings, including senior living. Occupational therapy involves helping you do anything you want or need to do safely, more easily, and independently. This is especially important for seniors who need help around the home, especially after hospital visits or injury.

With Senior Services Expert Lori Williams, she discusses:

- The ins and outs of occupational therapy

- Medicare insurance coverage

- The importance of mindset during recovery (and in life)

- Modifications and tools to stay more independent

- And more

Occupational therapy may sound like it just involves your occupation or job, but it’s about helping you adapt to daily tasks. Going to the bathroom, taking a shower, even walking around your home are tasks that occupational therapists make safer for seniors.

With Heidi’s tools, you’ll have ideas of ways to better equip yourself and find the professional help you need.

Topics discussed:

- Occupational therapy

- Home safety for seniors

- Senior independence

- Outcomes for positive, purpose-driven mindsets

- Outpatient therapy

- Skilled nursing facilities

- Walkers, shoehorns and safety bars

- Medicare coverage for occupational therapy

Takeaways from this episode:

- Occupational therapists can provide home visits to strengthen you to perform daily tasks, while adjusting your environment so you can do what you need to, safely.

- It may be tough initially to start using tools like walkers, but it restores quality of life by allowing you to be independent and partake in daily activities.

- Occupational therapy must be ordered by a physician, but is typically covered by Medicare.

- There are differently qualifying factors for home health versus occupational therapy, and they’re covered by different parts of Medicare.

- If you have Medicare Parts A and B and your occupational therapy is medically necessary, you have an unlimited amount of therapist visits.

Resources from this episode:

Ascend Therapy services:

How to senior proof a home, on a weekend:

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For more senior resources and to sign up to the newsletter, please visit:

A lot of people kind of resist using a walker at first, like they don't want to be seen with a walker, they don't want to be dependent on a walker, but I see it as the Walker gives them opportunity to go do those things they could do before. I was working with someone and he really wanted to walk his dog but his back hurt too much to walk and he was resistant to a walker. But we got one and we used it properly and then he was walking down to the park and back and he felt great. But just the shift of getting from I need this to this is helping me be able to be me. This kind of that mindset shift that we work on a lot. Welcome to aging install with me, Laurie Williams. I'm an optimist by nature and I believe you can follow your dreams at any age. My grandmother's journey with dementia ignited a passion and me to work with seniors. I've spent the past thirteen years learning about seniors and aging and my mid S I followed my own dream and found it my company, where I use my expertise to help seniors locate housing and resources. On this podcast we cover all aspects of aging joins each week to meet senior living experts and inspirational seniors who are following their dreams. The fact is, we're all aging, so why not do it in style? Hi, welcome to today's episode of aging in style. Today we are talking with an occupational therapist, or name is Heidi win and she has spent years working with adults from their s and into their hundreds and a variety of settings, including in their own home, independent living communities, assistant living and skill nursing settings. The purpose of accupational therapist to help increase their safety and independence so they can continue to spend time doing what they love and fulfilling their purpose. She is an occupational therapist, Certified Therapeutic Recreation specialist and entrepreneur, striving to share with the world that, with the right tools and support, anyone can continue living a life worth living, as she helps people to overcome barriers and rise to new heights.

So welcome, Hidi. Thank you so much for having me, of course. So what drew you into working with seniors? Yeah, so it just kind of happened along a process. So I was doing it an internship when I was in school and my field or placement was in a skilled nursing facility with activities director and I loved it. And so after graduating, before going to ot school, I actually was an activity director for a couple years and I just loved working with the residents there. But always still thought that once I became an ote I would maybe work with kids. That's kind of what I had always thought. And then getting my first job as an Ote, which brought me back home to Washington, was in a skilled nursing facility and I loved it and it just it just continued and I love working with the residents that I've worked with and I love hearing the stories and I love seeing just all the passion about everything they have and and, like I said, experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything right now. I just love working with the people I work with. Absolutely and you know what, it's obvious that you are in the right place because your face just lit up with passion when you started talking about seniors and working with them. So that's how you always know you are doing the right thing. Awesome. Yeah, so, for people who don't know what exactly is occupational therapy, yeah, so occupational therapy is basically working with anything that you want and need to do and helping you do those things better or more independently. People get thrown off by the word occupation, but it's not like our job occupation, it's our daily occupation. So daily things we do, going to the bathroom, taking a shower, or things we help others with, taking care of kids or walking the dog or feeding your pets, or sleep and rest, work, education, all of those things, like I said, that we need or want to do. So with occupational therapy we help adapt the task or help you become stronger to be able to accomplish those things more easily and more safely.

Excellent. And so that would be like for a senior? I guess typically someone's had a stroke and they are kind of relearning all these things, or if they are very weak, maybe they were ill with pneumonia in a hospital for a while. Then a doctor may order occupational therapy and then these are the types of things that you would do with them to help them get stronger. Right, yes, and so working with seniors, primarily what I focus on is, like you said, getting them stronger back to participating more fully in those daily things and also adapting the environment around them to help support them and doing what they need to do. Okay, and then it is paid for typically by Medicare and it would have to be ordered by a physician. Correct, correct. So the orders kind of depends on what state you're in, but Medicare does cover it. And then supplemental insurance kind of covers things that wouldn't be and with insurance always it's kind of preventative care isn't always covered as much as we wish that it would be, but it's still so important. But occupational therapy in general, different insurances have different plans, but it is covered that way. And then the kind of reading through your website, I noticed is something that you you hit on. It something that I talked about all the time. Mindset. And so how does mindset work in with occupational therapy? Yeah, so, working with occupational therapy, and with seniors in particular, things change over time for most people, at any stage of our life really, and so sometimes it's just keeping the mindset of what we can do and allowing tools to help us do them better or more fully. So a lot of people sometimes kind of resist using a walker at first, like they don't they don't want to be seen with a walker. They don't want to be dependent on a walker, but I see it as the Walker gives them opportunity to go do those things they could do before. I was...

...working with someone and he really wanted to walk his dog but his back hurt too much to walk and he was resistant to a walker. But we got one and we used it properly and then he was walking down to the park and back and he felt great. And but just the the shift of getting from I need this to this is helping me be able to be me. This kind of that mindset shift that we work on a lot. Yeah, and that is so important because I know I talked to so many seniors who they say, I don't want to Walker because that makes me look old. If I have a walker and to be you know, you're right. It is about that shift in mindset because, okay, so you can't do anything without a Walker, so you're just going to sit home. Why not just use the Walker and then you can rate quality of life. But get it, I mean I get that. It's just, you know, having that Aha moment and having that shift in their mindset. Well, I a walker is is a modification to help people continue, you know, being independent and able to get around. What are some other modifications that you suggest to help people stay independent? So it definitely depends on on what they're doing and what they need, but a lot of common ones that that we use is putting like little safety frame bars around their toilet or toilet seat risers for people who may have a hard time getting up, or making sure that the shower situation is safe with track sit on the floor, good Matt coming out that won't get your foot caught on if you're walking across it at the same time. So those are kind of simple things that you can just get. Setting up the kitchen in a way that is safe and helpful for you, keeping things you use a lot on the counter, keeping space clear. Some people have cabinet drawers where you open and they slide out, so those are really helpful to prevent, you know, bending and reaching. So those are some some typical ones that we see. And so when you start working with someone,... you go to their home and kind of help look around and see what we need to modify to make it a safer environment? Yes, I do. So that's what I really love about what I'm doing is I'm technically outpatient therapy and I can go, but I can go into someone's home because with occupational therapy, like we said, we adapt the environment, we assess the daily situation. So rather than simulating that in a clinic, I'm able to go and assess their actual safety of their environment, make recommendations based on what they need and see them do the tests and practice the activities in their natural environment, so you can see, like if they were doing something, maybe not in the correct way, like with the Walker example, because a lot of times people don't have the walkers adjusted the right way, so maybe they're too yes over, so you can actually see them using it and go, okay, let's adjust that. Yes, I was actually joking with a friend a little while ago about how and people purchase a walker, especially the ones with the four wheels and the seat and the brakes. Those are great, but they should be required to take like a class first on how to safely and properly use it, because when when we don't really need it, but we use it, we get into these bad habits and then when we really do need it, we're stuck in those bad habits. But yeah, to make sure that things are being done safely. Yeah, I absos. Think how they're happening, for sure. HMM. I know, I've seen people with those and they have it so far out in front of them, like helping you, right, but once they've been doing it, you can't change it. It's because the habit, I guess, right. Yeah, yeah, it's harder. So that's that's mine mindset to write, being able to adjust things over time when we've been doing something so long for, you know, seventy years, putting our pants on the same way, but that's not working, and adjusting that to do do it a little bit different. HMM. And I know, I think I saw this on your website when I was perusing it, but if someone can't bend over and put their socks on, there's like a little tool you can use to help your socks on.

I thought that was very interesting. Same thing with shoes. Yes, they're really neat compression stock, being stock shoes. My favorite is the foot funnel to help get shoes on and you just stick it on the back of your shoe, a little classic piece, and I use it. So cool. I've struggled so long trying to train people with long handled shoe horns, which are great and some people love them, but I've struggled and the foot funnel is so cool. So they're there are a ton of different adaptations and pieces of equipment to help with these daily tasks and a lot of times people just struggle them because they don't know that these little things exist. Yeah, and you know, we don't think about that until we are aging and then to bend over is impossible for us to put, you know, a stock on or a shoe on, and just I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who don't know that these devices even exist that could make their lives a whole lot easier and allow them to maintain their independence, which is what everyone wants, right. Yeah, exactly right. I love all this. And we talked about occupational therapy, about how you go to their home. Do you work for Home Health Company, because I think typically, is that how it works, that you work for a home health agency? Yes and no. So there there is a home health agency that has home health occupational therapists, and so this is this gets very confusing, so I'm glad you asked. So a lot of times, if someone is in the hospital or skill nursing or something happens and they got home, they get ordered home health. So a home health nurse Ptot come in and they can help do those things at home. But to qualify at least, like under Medicare for home health, there's different qualifying factors. You need to be homebound, like it's very difficult for you to get out and about. So what I do is technically mobile outpatient. These are growing. There's some scattered throughout the country and we're technically outpatient services, but we go to the home and so they don't have to meet those homebound qualifications and it's just like it works the same way as...

...if you were to go out to a clinic, except for we come to you. Okay. So it's a mobile and is it cut and it's covered by Medicare too, and it's covered by Medicare yet. So, like home health is a medicare part a coverage, and we get into all of that. Yeah, out patients Medicare part be. So it would be medicare part be. Just we would come to the home. Okay, excellent, and I guess it probably depends on your insurance. How many visits are allowed. Yes, so if someone has just like straight Medicare part a and part be. As long as it is medically necessary. There's there's not a maximal number of visits. That depends on just how the person is doing. Other insurances have different regulations for that. Okay, so when you go to their home, you just you kind of inspect everything, like we said, so you where they need help and then you work with them on all these different things to help them be more independent. So, unlike the physical therapist is working to strengthen them, you're working to help them adapt and have modifications to use in the home to maintain their independence. Exactly. A lot of times I kind of explain it like the physical therapist will help you walk to the bathroom and then I will help you do all the things you need to get your pants down, sit down, stand up, clean yourself, pulling back up, do all of those aspects safely. So more or of the actual functional aspects of doing the daily tasks. Okay, that's a goal. Do also work on strengthening? Yeah, we do work on strengthening and balance. There's the areas that we overlap, but that's kind of how I like to explain it to yeah, specify the too. Yeah, that's a great way to explain it to okay, excellent. So I know you've worked with a lot of seniors, as you started off working in a nursing home and then you visit all these seniors in their home, and I do want to find home, as could be your house, it could be your independent living apartment,...

...your sister living, wherever you may be. So you meet a lot of seniors. I'm sure that you've met several that inspire you, but is there one or two that really stand out as an inspiration? Yes, I'll talk about to just really quickly. So there's this one lady that I used to work with. She was living permanently as a long term resident in this skilled nursing facility, as she was this tiny little thing, but she always had the coolest leggings on and she was the most fashionable and the best dress and she'd be walking around with her Walker and she would go out and meet her friends down the hall and play cards every week. She would always be out and about doing the activities and her and gravity didn't have the best relationship. You would she would fall and she would break things and she would get back at it and then be she be stretching down the hall again. And there's this one time she fell and broke basically everything on one side of her body and it was hard and it was a struggle, but she kept friding through it and she got stronger and she got up and a couple months later she was stretchen down the hall again doing all the things she ever did, and I was very inspired by that, you know, her overcoming all of that difficulty and getting back to doing what she loved to do. And the other one was a gentleman I work with. I actually was on maternity leave when he was in skilled nursing, but I came back right before he went home and he was non weight bearing on one leg. He had surgery. He couldn't put weight on it yet, but we adapted his home to be able to make it safe so he could get home with the wheelchair at first and, you know, get around doing what he needed to do and then continue to adapt as he kept getting better and could put fifty percent weight, a hundred percent weight and whatnot. But he was a hiker, is a hiker. He loves hiking and that was his main motivation and and we're just trying to get him home and he's like, when can I get on the trails? When can I get on the trail? Listen and he just, you know, is out there and love nature and was hiking and that was what's...

...driving him, did to keep getting better and keep going and and there's Times that he goes out by himself, which I don't really advise anybody ever go ake by themselves, and Times he goes out with friends, but that, you know, he had a purpose and I think that's what really helps those people who do, you know, overcome these things that are really hard, as they have something that they love and that's what they want to do and they're going to get back to it. So that was a huge inspiration for me as well, just seeing this drive to not just walk again, but to get back, you know, on the mountain and climb those hills. And that really speaks to a mindset and purpose as well. Because, like I said, we talked on the podcast a lot about mindset and purpose. And if you're sitting in front of the TV all day, that's kind of your life. What do you have to drive you to get well and to get stronger, you know, so if you have a purpose like climbing a mountain or walking your dog or whatever it may be. That's those things that you can hold on to and focus on getting better and working through when it's probably not easy and maybe painful too, but you have that motivation. I appreciate you so much coming on here and talking about occupational therapy, because it's the one thing we really we haven't covered that yet. We've talked about physical therapy and other things, but we had not talked about occupational therapy and it is so important and so vital for our seniors to help them live their best quality of life, which is what we all want to do most independent. So tell us about your website and about your mission, what you know, what you're doing and how we can reach you. My biggest goal is just to help. Like you we talked about earlier, there's so many things out there and people just don't know they exist. So I'm just trying to share that there are things out there that you can do, that people can do to stay strong, to stay safe, to stay independent, and we might adapt things a little little bit, but there's resources out there and I'm trying to provide those more and more so on my website, www dot ascend their...

...p pnwcom. However, I have another one that's easier to find and then get to it from there. So if you go to we age with purposecom links, no, www, just we age with purposecom links, there's a link to my website and then also to a facebook group I have and a youtube channel and different areas that you can see, just different information that I provide. I love just sharing, like we talked about the foot funnel and different tools that are helpful and exciting or different techniques that I wear, and I just want to share those with everybody as much as I can. So you can find that information on there. Okay, excellent, and will be sure to put it on the podcast and put the link on there as well and, you know, make sure people can find it and I'll put it on my website to so we're fact we can get that information out there. Well, Hidi, I appreciate you so much taking time to be on the show and share this great information with us. It's my pleasure. Thanks again for having me. Sure well, thank you all for listening and again, we will have on my website, which is Lori Williams senior Servicescom, you can find all the podcast episodes there and we will have the link for Heidi's website as well. Thanks so much for listening and we'll talk to you next week.

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