Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Breann Lamborn


Opioid Epidemic; Opioid Overdose; Grandparents as Caregivers; Occupational Competence; Parenting Role; Model of Human Occupation (MOHO); Rural Population


The U.S. opioid crisis impacts families everywhere, cutting across all racial, urban and rural lines (Chan & Trant, 2018). Parental opioid-related overdose was attributed as one of the primary causes for the rise of children entering state custody and foster care from 1999 to 2016 (Haffajee & Frank, 2018). Therefore, more relatives are raising these children due to the unforeseen circumstances associated with opioid misuse, and it is often the grandparents who assume the primary caregiving role. According to Ellis and Simmons (2014), there are approximately 2.7 million grandparent caregivers or those who have primary responsibility for grandchildren under 18 years of age as a result. Occupational therapy has roots in mental health and is equipped with a vast number of skills to increase the grandparents’ participation in meaningful occupations. Occupational therapists can help grandparents develop occupational competence in their new parenting role by engaging them in carrying out desired habits, roles, routines and rituals successfully in order to experience a sense of self-efficacy. An extensive literature review was conducted in order to gather evidence-based information and strategies that occupational therapists may utilize when working with this population. The information was gathered through research articles, textbooks, government websites, and from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Based on the findings from the literature, Looking Beyond the User: An Occupationally Supportive Training for Grandparents Raising their Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis was developed for occupational therapists to help grandparent caregivers identify meaningful roles, coping strategies, personal and community supports, and highlights the importance of engaging in healthy habits, routines and rituals. The Model of Human Occupation (MOHO) was selected as the program's theoretical foundation. This dynamic systems theory helps to explain the relationship between a variety of factors that influence the primary caregivers’ occupational performance. The purpose of this program is to help grandparents identify meaningful roles, coping strategies, personal and community supports, and highlights the importance of engaging in healthy habits, routines, and rituals to thrive in their assumed caregiving role. To ensure the program’s success, it is recommended that the program be implemented in rural communities where research indicates that services are highly needed. Further, it is recommended that community stakeholders are identified to ensure appropriate recruitment of participants, help obtain program funding, and recommend additional research and modifications be instituted as necessary.