Emerging Areas in Occupational Therapy
By Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer
The demand for occupational therapists (OTs) – professionals who help individuals with physical, cognitive or emotional limitations achieve independence in their daily living or working environments – is on the upswing.
After a period of layoffs and hiring freezes spurred by federal legislation that limited reimbursement for therapy services, the OT profession has bounced back and is branching out in new directions. While job opportunities in hospitals, schools and other traditional settings remain strong, many OTs are blazing trails in areas connected with the aging population. Carolyn Baum, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, notes five aging-related practice areas that are spawning new business for OTs:
Support for ‘Aging in Place’
Older Americans prefer to stay in their own homes rather than enter long-term care facilities, and OTs help make that desire a reality. OTs consult with elderly individuals, families and architects on designing or modifying homes so they are more accessible and less dangerous for people with poor mobility, vision loss or other limitations. OTs also work with architects and city officials to help them understand and incorporate the needs of seniors into city planning. In enclaves populated by large numbers of elderly people, for example, there is often a need for more senior-friendly signs, crosswalks and sidewalks.
Driver Assessments and Training Programs
Making sure older drivers do not injure themselves – or anyone else – on the road is another growth area for OTs. Because more physicians are addressing driver safety issues with their patients, the demand for evaluating questionable drivers is growing. OTs are equipped to perform driver screenings, evaluations and interventions. OTs also offer driver rehabilitation services.