Mackenzi Pergolotti, Malcolm P. Cutchin, Morris Weinberger, Anne-Marie Meyer; Occupational Therapy Use by Older Adults With Cancer. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(5):597–607. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.011791
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© 2019 American Occupational Therapy Association
Occupational therapy may significantly improve cancer survivors’ ability to participate in activities, thereby improving quality of life. Little is known, however, about the use of occupational therapy services by adults with cancer. The objective of this study was to understand what shapes patterns of occupational therapy use to help improve service delivery. We examined older (age >65 yr) adults diagnosed with breast, prostate, lung, or melanoma (skin) cancer between 2004 and 2007 (N = 27,131) using North Carolina Central Cancer Registry data linked to Medicare billing claims. Survivors who used occupational therapy within 1 yr before their cancer diagnosis were more likely to use occupational therapy after diagnosis but also experienced the highest levels of comorbidities. Survivors with Stage 4 cancers or lung cancer were less likely to use occupational therapy. These findings suggest possible disparities in utilization of occupational therapy by older adults with cancer.
Occupational therapy practitioners need to address the possible disparity in occupational therapy utilization by older adults with lung and Stage IV cancers. As noted, adults with these cancers may need specialized care; research is needed on effective and evidence-based intervention to improve their quality of life.
Increased awareness of occupational therapy services by practitioners (oncologists, nurse oncology practitioners, etc.) and by older adults may increase access and utilization of occupational therapy services for older adults with cancer.
Occupational therapy researchers need to take an active role in health services research to examine access to occupational therapy in other populations to outline and understand possible disparities in access to care.
Occupational therapy associations need to work with oncology professional associations to build bridges and partnerships for research to improve practice and outcomes for people with cancer.
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