Occupational Therapy: The Art of Adapting
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Published on May 20, 2015

senior man using shoe horn to put on shoes

Occupational Therapy: The Art of Adapting

As an occupational therapist, I see a little bit of everything. I get to work with people from all stages of life, with varying abilities and disabilities. Today alone, I saw adult orthopedic patients, ran to the nursing home to see a few residents, returned to the hospital for another orthopedic patient, and I ended my day with elementary school-aged children. I see people with fractured wrists, carpal tunnel syndrome, stroke complications, decreased visual perception, the inability to dress independently, difficulties interpreting sensory information … and everything in between. How’s that for variety? I consider myself lucky to do what I do!

One of my favorite things about occupational therapy is adapting. Life is all about adapting; we adapt to the weather, we adapt to different personalities, we adapt to changes in our work environment, and we adapt to technology. But, what happens if you sustain an injury, and can no longer use your dominant hand? How will you get dressed? Eat? Maintain appropriate hygiene? You adapt. What happens if you lose your vision? Or the use of one side of your body? You adapt.

Thankfully, there are many adaptive devices on the market today — you just have to know where to look.

My top 10 list of the best adaptive equipment

  • Reacher: Can’t reach the floor? No problem. Need help putting on those pants? Done.
  • Stocking aid: Put your socks on without bending over? Yes, please!
  • Foam tubing: A simple trick to adapt to a weak or injured hand, especially if forming a fist is difficult. Build those handles up for easier grasp.
  • Shelf liner (a cheap alternative to Dycem): Prevent slipping on a seat, easily open a jar, or prevent your plate from sliding around the table.
  • Lever handles (although my parents would disagree, after babysitting my kids!): Easily open doors without grasping or turning your wrist.
  • Extended tub bench: Enter and exit the bathtub safely and independently, without standing up!
  • Suction cup grab bars: Don’t want to ruin your tub with a bulky grab bar? These are easy to put in place, move and eliminate — and are surprisingly sturdy.
  • Elastic laces: Trouble tying your favorite shoes? No need if they’re tied and stretchy!
  • Button hook: Decreased hand strength and coordination make buttoning difficult … this tool is simple and quick.
  • Universal gripper: Weak, uncoordinated hands? Turn on your stovetop, unlock a door, and adjust a dial with one tool. Very little strength required!

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