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Learn How OTAs Help Patients with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living)

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with individuals from many different walks of life. When you enroll in the OTA program at Villa, you will learn about the different career paths available for an OTA and the diverse cultures you may interact with. OTAs also work with children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as those who have faced trauma. Though OTAs serve many unique needs, ADLs (activities of daily living) are a constant among different populations.

What are activities of daily living?

ADLs are daily tasks that people must perform to maintain their well-being and safety. In a way, these activities can be seen as “survival skills” required on a day-to-day basis. When someone has trouble with one or more of these skills, an OTA can provide ADL support and modifications.

ADL examples occupational therapy assistants use

Among the vast array of patients OTAs will come into contact with, most will need help with ADLs. Below are a handful of ADLs most commonly addressed by occupational therapists.

Functional mobility

An OTA cannot help with ADLs unless the person they are helping is able to physically move from place to place to do them. Therefore, supporting patients with their functional mobility–or daily physical movements–often tops the ADL list. Whether the individual walks independently or utilizes a cane or wheelchair, an OTA can help support their physical activity. They can help with physical mobility ADLs by stretching, working with equipment, and modifying the space they live in to make it more accessible.

Device care

If a patient who needs help with ADLs does utilize a supportive device–such as a wheelchair or walker–an OTA can work with them to make sure they know how to safely use it. However, device care goes beyond physical activity support. Other ways OTAs assist patients with equipment needs may include the use of orthotics, hearing aids, glasses, and other supportive devices.

Feeding supports

A critical part of day-to-day survival is the ability to appropriately feed your body. If someone has a broken arm or experiences trouble with fine motor skills, lifting a spoon or fork may be tricky. An OTA can provide support, skills, and tools to help their patients learn to safely prepare food and feed themselves.


Similar to the above point, getting dressed is a crucial skill for independent living. If a patient is physically injured or experiences cognitive delays limiting their ability to dress, an OTA can help them through the learning process. There are devices and skills that make dressing an easier ADL.

Hygiene and grooming

Children often need assistance learning how to hold a toothbrush to appropriately clean their teeth or use soap and a loofah to clean their bodies in the bath. Pediatric OTAs help with ADLs so children have the skills to successfully stay safe and independent during the day. ADLs are also important in aging adult care. If an adult has a broken limb, OTAs can provide assistive equipment to help with the washing, brushing, and cleaning needs of their patients.