Here we explain how an occupational therapist may be able to help you or your relative recover from, or manage, age-related health conditions.
On this page you can find out about:
1. What do occupational therapists do?
2. How can an occupational therapist help?
3. How can an occupational therapist help me as a carer?
4. How can I or my relative get an appointment for occupational therapy?
5. How much does occupational therapy cost?
What do occupational therapists do?
Occupational therapists help people regain their confidence, abilities and self-reliance after ill-health or an injury, or if they have a disability.
If your relative or friend has had an accident or illness, an occupational therapist can help him or her with their recovery and to manage the daily activities that are important to their health and wellbeing. This can be anything from personal care routines and keeping active to working, socialising and enjoying leisure activities.
To do that, the occupational therapist will look at your relative’s mental and physical health, as well as social and environmental factors, and work with him or her to plan and achieve the goals that matter the most to them.
Occupational therapists work within a wide range of organisations, so you might meet one in the NHS, your local authority’s housing and social care departments (social work services in Scotland), residential care homes and occupational health. Some also work independently for individuals and their families.
How can an occupational therapist help?
Through looking at daily routines, equipment, home adaptations, technology and communications, occupational therapists can help your relative recover from a wide range of medical conditions.
Some of the health conditions that occupational therapists can help with include arthritic conditions, stroke, Parkinson’s and dementia.
The ways that an occupational therapist can help your relative depends on what they’re struggling with. Here are a few examples of situations where an occupational therapist can help:
- Care homes: Occupational therapists can support people living in residential care homes to improve their health and wellbeing. They can work with the individual and staff to ensure that your relative is able to participate in daily life in ways that suit them and make the most of their strengths, social contacts and interests.
- Falls prevention: an occupational therapist can help your relative to move around more safely and easily, including if they have previously suffered a fall. Often, they work in teams alongside physiotherapists where they advise on equipment and techniques that can help prevent your relative from having falls. Read more about Preventing falls.
- Home advice: if you’re concerned about your relative living at home, an occupational therapist can visit to see whether simple changes in your relative’s routines could help them stay independent. They can also assess if your relative would benefit from special equipment or a home adaptation to make their lives safer and more secure.
- Mental health: occupational therapists can help your relative with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or dementia. They work with people individually or in groups to increase confidence in social situations and with managing daily life. For someone with depression, this can include anything from learning simple interaction techniques in social situations to breaking down daily tasks so that they become more manageable.
- Rehabilitation: if your relative has suffered from an illness or injury, an occupational therapist's role will be to help them regain the independent living skills they need so they are ready to be discharged home safely.
How can an occupational therapist help me as a carer?
If you care for your relative or friend in their home, an occupational therapist can work with you to identify ways in which you can make sure both you and your loved one are as safe and comfortable as possible. For example, they can demonstrate techniques or equipment you can use for moving your relative in and out of chairs and the bed, or using the bath or toilet safely.
If you’re looking after someone, you’re also entitled to an assessment of your needs as a carer, which is usually carried out by a social worker or care manager. An occupational therapist can also be involved in this assessment to advise on the practical aspects of care.
How can I or my relative get an appointment for occupational therapy?
If you’re concerned about your relative’s safety or wellbeing because of health problems or disability, you can arrange for an occupational therapy assessment by contacting the local authority’s adult social care department (social work services in Scotland, social care services in Northern Ireland). You can find contact details for your local authority in our Care services directory.
Your relative’s GP, social worker or nurse can also refer you for an appointment.
If your relative is in hospital, occupational therapists will often be part of the rehabilitation, recovery or discharge teams and you can ask that your relative is seen by one before they go home, to make sure they can manage the daily activities that are important to them.
It’s also possible to contact a private occupational therapist through The College of Occupational Therapists’ website. Private occupational therapists will visit your relative at home, but you will have to pay them yourself.
How much does occupational therapy cost?
Social services or NHS
Your relative doesn’t have to pay for occupational therapy sessions that are arranged by social services or the NHS.
If the occupational therapist thinks that your relative or friend needs equipment, a range of basic items of equipment will usually be provided by the council, but if you or your relative want something other than the essential ones, you may have to pay for it yourself.
If your home needs to be adapted to your relative’s needs, you can apply for the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). The amount of money you can get and the processes for applying vary across the UK.
Your relative will have to pay for consultations with a private occupational therapist, and you should ask about the fees before engaging them. To find out if your relative could be eligible for occupational therapy through the NHS, you can do a care needs assessment.
A home visit for an assessment usually takes between one and two hours and fees can vary between £300 and £500, depending on location and the specialism of the therapist. The fee should include a full report that sets out brief details of what was discussed during the assessment, including advice and recommendations.
You’re most likely to get the written report after the visit, particularly where further research is needed to identify solutions or modifications to your relative’s home.
If follow-up sessions are required, hourly rates can range from £40 to £70.
Bear in mind that consultations are geared towards recovery and independence rather than extended periods of treatment, and if any equipment is recommended you will need to purchase this yourself.
It may be good to have a list of questions ready to ask an independent occupational therapist so you know what’s included before booking the first appointment:
- Is the fee inclusive of a full assessment report?
- Are travel time and expenses included in the fee?
- What are the arrangements for follow-up advice or appointments?
How are occupational therapists regulated?
The College of Occupational Therapists is the professional body that sets standards and codes of practice for the profession and have more information about what occupational therapists do on their website.
All occupational therapists should be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and are required to work to their professional codes of ethics and practice. You can check the credentials of occupational therapists online.
About the author
Maggie Winchcombe has been a practising registered occupational therapist for over 30 years. She advises businesses and organisations about how they could improve their services to older consumers and offers training about ageing and ageing well through Years Ahead.
- Accessing physiotherapy for older people: find out in which circumstances your relative could benefit from physiotherapy.
- Dealing with a fall: learn to recognise common hazards in the home to make sure it's as safe as possible.
- Financing home alterations: read about the different ways to fund home adaptations.
Page first published: July 2016
Next review due: October 2018