Skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs, can provide medical care for a period of time whether it be for a short period of time or a more permanent setting. An occupational therapist’s role in a SNF facility is to focus on “achieving health, well-being, and participation in life through engagement in occupation” (American Occupational Therapy Associations, 2014, p.S4). We as therapists address and provide interventions including the resident’s self-care skills, cognition, safety awareness, environmental adaptations, compensatory techniques and wheelchair positioning.

If a resident is in a SNF for short-term rehab such as recovering from surgery, illness, or other factors, occupational therapy can provide some of the following interventions to plan for appropriate discharge.

• Perform instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) that focus on the resident’s discharge environment such as preparing a meal, managing medications, and completing household tasks 

• Addressing functional mobility with assistive devices and how to incorporate the device with daily activities such as cooking

• Incorporating use of adaptive equipment to increase independence 

• Assessing the need for home modifications prior to discharge such as shower benches, grab bars, bed rails, etc. to enhance safe performance when returning to discharge environment

• Addressing current leisure skills to determine if modifications need to be made to ensure continued participation with activities 

If a resident is in a SNF for long term care, occupational therapy can provide some of the following interventions:

• Training in functional mobility which may include an ambulatory device

• Transfer training to a variety of surfaces such as bed, toilet, chair, etc.

• Safety awareness within environment and best ways to communicate/interact with resident based on cognition pensatory techniques to maximize independence with ADL’s and IADL’s

• Providing appropriate techniques to caregivers and resident to increase safety, proper positioning to avoid skin breakdown, and maintaining a safe environment 

• Incorporating resident in meaningful activities for engagement

Occupational therapists play an important role in a SNF, whether it’s short term or long term. Through interventions, OT can enrich each resident’s participation with meaningful activities and daily activities to promote independence, quality of life and overall fulfilment from a resident.

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Tori Reiff, COTA/L, is with Benedictine Living Community Wahpeton.

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