Caring for the Caregivers: The Role of Occupational Therapy

October 22, 2015

The repetitive nature of caring for a loved one recovering at home can be emotionally draining for a caregiver. Tasks such as helping that loved one get out of bed each morning, dress, bathe and eat can also be physically challenging.

When a recovering patient can carry out these activities of daily living independently, the benefits are felt throughout the home. The patient feels more in control and more positive about his or her recovery, noted University of Ottawa Heart Institute occupational therapist Linda Varas Brulé. The caregiver, too, can feel that a source of pressure and stress has been removed.

Brulé works closely with patients and caregivers, providing them with information that will make their lives easier and help them find what they need. She offers resources on general home safety, bathroom safety and car transfers, as well as on techniques to conserve physical energy as much as possible—something that’s important to both patients and caregivers. She also maintains a list of suppliers for specialized equipment, such as mobility aids (canes and walkers), bathroom safety aids (grab bars and raised toilet seats) and self-care equipment to assist patients with tasks like bathing and eating.

Cardiac Rehabilitation also offers skills training to caregivers anxious about physical manoeuvres such as transferring a loved one from a wheelchair to a bed or in and out of a car. Brulé or another team member can show them how to do it and give them the opportunity to practice under a watchful eye while at the Heart Institute.

Building patient and caregiver skills and arming them with knowledge and resources is key to improving their confidence, reducing anxiety and enhancing their independence so they can focus on getting better.

Read the rest of the Caring for the Caregivers series: