June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Did you know occupational therapy professionals help clients with varying levels of dementia and the families of clients facing the disease? A team of an occupational therapist (OT) and an OTA – occupational therapy assistant – can provide help and hope. What do OTAs do for clients with dementia-related illnesses? They help them retain existing abilities for as long as possible.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 50 million people live with Alzheimer’s and other dementia illnesses. Dementia is a term that describes a group of cognitive symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease –the most common form of dementia. Dementia affects the quality of life of those afflicted and their families.
Occupational therapy professionals step in to provide assistance, helpful information, and guidance to this often-neglected population.
OTAs are Occupational Therapy Practitioners
Not sure what occupational therapy is all about? The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) defines occupational therapy as “a profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do.” Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of any age with an injury, illness, or disability, to live life to its fullest.
It would be difficult to imagine a profession with a more worthwhile purpose. Still, occupational therapy is less well-known than other healthcare therapy specialties, and the deep involvement OTAs have with clients is often more of an unknown to the general public. OTAs, though, are the people whose education and training have a whole-person focus, and they help clients achieve their goals for daily living by working one-on-one with them.
What Do OTAs Do… for Those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Occupational therapy interventions for those with dementia include:
How an OTA Can Deliver Help and Hope to Their Clients
1. Help them live more independently
Examples might include using written, step-by-step instructions on a whiteboard, assisting clients to do tasks like microwaving a meal, or getting dressed for the day.
2. Ensure clients live safely
An OTA could assess harmful conditions in the home, including removing flammable or illness-causing liquids, or supervising meal preparation.
3. Help control wandering
People with dementia often obey clear instructions, so posting a “stop” message on an exterior door can prevent clients from getting lost. OTAs could also assess the need for deadbolts on doors and locks for windows.
4. Maintain emotional connections
An OTA could encourage a client to share their life story, as long-term memory is generally better than short-term recall. Reliving fond memories by reviewing a photo book with them can provide a calming environment that prevents confusion or anxiety.
5. Prevent falls and injuries
An OTA might do a walk-through of the home, helping identify the need to remove loose rugs or identify steps. An in-home assessment may call for eliminating clutter and ensuring there’s sufficient lighting in rooms and hallways.
Why an OTA Role is a Top-20 Healthcare Support Job
OTAs are trained to assist clients in meeting a full range of challenges in addition to those facing cognitive decline: developmental, emotional, physical, and sensory-processing difficulties. Having the ability to help so many in different ways takes a special kind of person.
What do OTAs do to fulfill this role? OTAs have to be naturally people-focused because they serve as a trusted coach and friend, as well as a therapy professional. OTAs get to know their clients, using their knowledge and creative abilities to apply and adapt therapies if needed.
The OTA Career: Where You’ll Work, What You’ll Earn
OTAs are in-demand because they work in a wide variety of settings:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates OTA job growth at 31% between 2018 and 2028. OTAs are on the list of “best health care support jobs” published yearly by US News and World Report.
According to Salary.com, the average compensation for experienced OTAs is 53,393 and $65,112. Starting salaries for newly graduated OTAs average $45,000, and can go higher in states where the demand for OTAs is greatest.
How to Get Your Answers to “What Do OTAs Do?”
Explore Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) in Overland Park, Kansas, to learn more about our Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree Program.
Students typically complete the OTA degree in as few as two years and graduate eligible to enter the OTA workforce. The OTA program at CUKC is accredited by the American Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
The OTA degree includes 16 core courses, integrated with the required 16 weeks of fieldwork. Coursework is presented in eight-week segments, which reinforces learning. CUKC offers program start dates in the summer, spring, and fall.
Request information today and download this FREE eBook from CUKC: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.