Older adults who have had surgery, prolonged illnesses, strokes, heart attacks, or injuries often need assistance during their recovery. Seniors with these and other ailments often require different types of therapy to regain strength, independence, and overall health. Here are a few of the differences between physical and occupational therapy and how they sometimes work together to enhance a senior’s quality of life.
The Two Are Different Yet Complementary
There’s a common misconception that physical therapy and occupational therapy are synonymous. Both disciplines can help seniors maintain their independence, maximize function, and lead active lifestyles. Both physical and occupational therapists try to educate seniors on ways to prevent injury and increase the ability to perform daily activities, but they have slightly different areas of focus.
The purpose of physical therapy is to increase the functioning of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves. Older adults may develop impaired physical function as the result of injuries or natural wear and tear arising from the aging process. Physical therapy is often the best option for seniors experiencing issues such as joint dysfunction, changes in gait, and decreases in overall balance and coordination. Physical therapists can help seniors with acute or chronic pain, limited mobility, balance disorders, and a lack of endurance.
This type of therapy is largely composed of individualized and integrated exercises designed to promote enhanced stability, posture, and flexibility. A physical therapist can also perform soft tissue and joint manipulation for increasing range of motion and expediting the natural healing process.
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Occupational therapy is designed to enhance a senior’s ability to perform the activities of day-to-day life despite potentially long-term changes in balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, and overall mobility. For example, occupational therapists can help seniors identify alternative strategies for getting dressed, eating, and taking care of personal hygiene. They can also assess seniors’ level of functioning as well as their home environments and recommend appropriate adaptive tools, including walkers, bedside commodes, and tub benches. Much like physical therapy, occupational therapy can also include exercises for enhancing joint movement and overall coordination.
One of the key differences between these two therapies is that occupational therapy also addresses various aspects of cognitive functioning. Occupational therapy can treat issues pertaining to both orientation and memory, which can be especially beneficial for seniors living with age-related and degenerative diseases. After receiving occupational therapy, seniors can then maintain a sense of independence in areas where they might otherwise need a considerable amount of outside help.
Techniques Used in Each Type of Therapy
Physical therapists often use manual therapy to enhance body alignment, mobility, and muscle strength. They also incorporate therapeutic exercises, gait training, and balance training. Occupational therapists most often focus on exercises that increase coordination and dexterity in the upper extremities, and they can also train seniors and their caregivers in the proper use of adaptive equipment.
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Who Can Benefit from These Therapies?
Any senior experiencing a decrease in functioning that makes it difficult to remain independent can benefit from one or both forms of therapy. Your loved one’s primary physician can determine if one or both of these types of therapy may be the right option for your loved one’s recovery.
Many seniors are able to live on their own, but they may need a bit of help with the everyday tasks of life, such as exercising and preparing nutritious meals. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable senior care. Calgary, AB, families trust Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age. Rely on the professionals at Home Care Assistance to provide high-quality compassionate care for your loved one. Give us a call today at 403-301-3777 to learn about our flexible in-home care plans.