Older adults are the fastest growing sector of Canada’s population. It is estimated that those above age 65 will almost double by 2036. This in turn creates new age-related practices for health care practitioners including occupational therapists in Canada. One of the trends concerning this issue is prevention of injury, disability or illness among this group or caused by them. Driving is an activity that can bring along many risks and costs for both the driver and society overall. More physicians in Canada are addressing driver safety issues with their patients, and send their elder patients for driving evaluations. OTs perform evaluations and determine the effects that an old adult’s medical condition, medications and functional limitations may have on the driving task. Occupational therapists can help older drivers to continue to engage in safe driving as their occupation of interest. After the evaluation, if need be, OTs intervene to facilitate the occupation of safe driving for their clients. Some examples of these interventions are providing adaptive driving equipment, training to use the driving the aids, systematic desensitization and graded treatment plan to clients suffering from phobias and anxiety about driving.
Older Canadians prefer to stay at home rather than joining long-term care facilities. However, this population has many complex medical issues such as dementia, memory and attention problems, arthritis, stroke, and so on that threaten their safety at home. They are also more prone to falls which can have debilitating consequences for their health and high costs on the medical system. OT practitioners can consult with the elderly, families and architects to come up with plans to modify homes so they are more accessible and less dangerous for people with limitations and hence, prevent any potential harm. OTs also assess a patient’s cognitive ability and use behavioral modifications to help address change in patients’ personalities, as well as help to adapt their current home for safety issues. Another role the occupational therapist will play is educating the family caregivers. They will help the family find support groups or respite care for the emotional assistance they may need. OTs can also prevent recurrence of stroke by educating patients about the ways they can manage their conditions.
Older workers comprise one of the fastest growing segments of workforce in Canada. OTs exchange views with employers to create strategies that assist more seasoned laborers efficiency, ergonomics and prevent workplace injury.
Problematic substance use and opioid crisis is another current trend in the Canadian health care system. It is a complex health and social issue causing destructive consequences such as increased addiction, overdose and death rates that affect individuals, families and communities. For instance, Ontario alone experienced 242% rise in opioid overdose rate from 1991 to 2010. Occupational therapists can play a leading role tackling this issue by motivating behavioral changes in such clients. OTs help clients explore and recognize how their substance abuse affects their health status and their ability to perform their most meaningful and significant tasks. Then, they help the person learn and practice new patterns eliminating drug abuse to achieve their desirable occupational roles. OTs not only stop clients from drug abuse but also, they set them up to fill whatever void the substance leaves behind with beneficial appropriately challenging occupations. This is how occupational therapy can contribute to have a true effect in placing patient in long-term recovery.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine concluded that 80% of heroin addicts started using heroin because they got addicted to their prescribed pain medications. Once they ran out, or could not refill their prescriptions, they switched from using opioids to abusing them. Although, this can be considered an extreme example, It is noteworthy that normally the difference between use and abuse is delicate. In Canada, studies suggest that aging is a precursor to the rise of pain and as a result the quality of life of many seniors who are already dealing with other physical conditions, activity limitations, and cognitive changes is negatively affected. Senior citizens reported that addressing chronic pain is first concern. This signifies the importance of pain management through interventions other than pain medications. Occupational therapists are a core element of interdisciplinary pain management and rehabilitation groups. OTS can intervene to manage chronic pain through a combination of noninvasive modalities, functional activities and the therapeutic use of self. They also inform clients about the neurophysiology of pain response, involve their clients to participate and set goals in their therapy which in turn motivates the patients and improve the outcomes.