Seating and Occupational Performance
Occupational performance is vital for our clients to enable them to complete roles and routines that matter to them. Correct seating is one element that we can offer them to assist with maximising their occupational performance.
The Occupational Performance Model (Australia) describes occupational performance as the ability to plan and carry out roles and routines for the purpose of self-maintenance, productivity, leisure and rest. When you think about your client and their use of a chair, what occupational performance areas are they engaging in?
Within this area sits activities that allow our client to maintain their health and well-being. This could include their physical health, so the chair could be assisting them with this by providing postural or pressure care support to ensure this happens.
Or it could be through practical tasks such as dressing or eating. Does your client sit in their chair whilst getting dressed? If so, does the chair facilitate them to complete this activity in the most productive manner? What about eating. What position are they in when they eat? Do they need extra support when sitting to eat?
Activities that fall into this area could be anything that is done by your client for entertainment. What we class as leisure activities varies significantly from person to person. It could be reading a book, watching TV, knitting or playing the latest game on their Xbox. Think about how the chair can assist them to engage in these leisure pursuits and ensure that they don’t miss out on this vital occupational activity.
As humans we all need to rest, and what this means to us is very personal. Rest isn’t just the act of sleeping. We can rest whilst communicating with friends and family. Rest could include meditation or a mindfulness activity. Or rest can be sleeping, and it’s important we all get enough sleep! A chair is a great place to rest, and with the correct seating our clients can be encouraged and enabled to rest in a safe and comfortable way.
To achieve any of the above occupational performance areas we need to consider the components that allow our clients to engage in occupational performance, and the impact that their abilities with these may have on their seating needs.
This relates to the physical structure of your client and how they perform. Consider things such as range of movement, muscle strength, balance, muscle endurance or circulation. What biomechanical strengths do they have that you want to promote? And what limitations do they have that you might consider compensating for with the chair?
This can include your client's ability to register sensory stimuli and respond appropriately to this. Vitally important when it comes to pressure risk.
This can include any cognitive ability, but things such as recognition, memory, processing and problem solving will all impact on the type of chair you are choosing with your client. Think about how your client will operate the chair if they have any cognitive difficulties.
This can often be overlooked when considering seating for your client but it’s important to think about your client's mood, self-esteem, emotions and rationality. What impact will providing a specialist chair have on these intrapersonal traits? Don’t underestimate the impact that providing a chair that looks like it belongs in a hospital operating room may have on your client! The aesthetics of the chair and ensuring it matches with the décor of their home is often the most important factor for your client.
 Ranka, J., & Chapparo, C. (1997). Definition of terms. In C. Chapparo and J. Ranka (Eds.). Occupational Performance Model (Australia): Monograph 1 (pp. 58-60). Occupational Performance Network: Sydney retrieved from www.occupationalperformance.com/definitions