Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

13
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSESSMENT

Linda S. Corman

The image of the person with mental retardation as eternally youthful and joyous is a false one. People who are mentally retarded grow old and face many of the difficulties, life changes and decisions that the "normal" adult faces in old age. My role as an Occupational Therapist is to evaluate my clients, encourage their uniqueness and self-esteem as individuals, and enhance their well-being.

When assessing the adult with mental retardation you need not always focus on the diagnosis of mental retardation. For instance, your clients will face the same health issues as clients who are old and not mentally retarded. They may experience decreased vision, loss of hearing, sensation, and mobility, osteoporosis, arthritis, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The diagnosis of mental retardation assists you in understanding your clients' abilities both to interact with you and others, and to understand the changes they are undergoing.

Knowing your clients' functional and cognitive skill levels will assist you in determining the type and level of assistance that will be needed. Take, for example, a client with mental retardation who is old and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. A client with limited cognitive functioning may only know that her hands feel better after paraffin (wax) treatments. Another client may understand a simple description of arthritis with its "sore fingers"; a third client may be taught energy conservation and joint protection techniques.

Occupational therapists use a holistic approach when assessing clients. The client requires assessment of her physical, functional, psychosocial, and cognitive abilities. Sensory systems are examined to determine if there is a change or a decrease in vision or hearing. Is the client having trouble seeing her work or doing a familiar self-care task? Is she missing directions or not participating in tasks to her previous potential? In the area of nutrition and oral motor skills, is the client

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