Our expanding senior citizen population has led to a concomitant upsurge in age related physical maladies. One of the diseases that requires active allied health professional treatment is the management of arthritis. Early occupational therapist (OT) intervention in the management of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis can make a critical difference in limiting ligament and joint damage which maximizes the functional use of hands and upper extremities. In addition, many people suffering from arthritis that affects the ability for patients to perform lower body self-care activities like bathing and dressing can benefit greatly from one or two sessions of OT for education about adaptive equipment available to improve or maintain independence.
People diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at risk of developing extremely disabling disorders of their wrists and hands. OTs can provide important information about ways to slow down the disease progression and offer compensation strategies that improve their involvement in everyday activities. For example, splints can be used to improve motion, stability, and function. Exercise plays a very important role in maintaining a range of motion and stability. Occupational therapists can offer crucial information on the advantages of an exercise program that minimizes injury risk.
Often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, this disease can be extremely debilitating. OTs can play a major role in educating patients about the disease, principles of joint protection, and how to apply this learning to their daily activities. Use of adaptive equipment and assistive devices can be practiced in the clinic setting. As with RA, splints can be used to correct or prevent deformities. Splints and braces can be used to improve functioning in ways that can dramatically improve quality of life.