Physical vs. Occupational Therapy: What Are the Differences?

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Elderly adults who have had surgery, a prolonged illness, a stroke or heart attack, or an injury need time and assistance during their recovery. These and other ailments often require the need for different types of therapy to regain strength, independence, and overall health. The Phoenix senior care experts at Home Care Assistance discuss a few of the differences between physical and occupational therapy and explain how they sometimes work together to enhance a senior’s quality of life.

The Two Are Different Yet Complementary

There is a common misconception that physical therapy and occupational therapy are synonymous. Both disciplines can help seniors maintain their independence, maximize function, and lead an active lifestyle. Physical and occupational therapists both try to educate seniors on ways to prevent injury and increase the ability to perform daily activities, but with slightly different areas of focus.

Physical Therapy

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 an injury or natural wear and tear arising from the aging process. Physical therapists can help seniors with acute or chronic pain, limited mobility, balance disorders, and a lack of endurance.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is designed to enhance a senior’s ability to perform the activities of day-to-day life. For example, occupational therapists can help seniors regain the capacity to bathe, dress, or feed themselves. They can also assess a senior’s level of functioning and home environment and recommend appropriate adaptive tools, including walkers, bedside commodes, and tub benches.

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 will most often focus on exercises that increase coordination and dexterity in the upper extremities, and they can also train seniors and their Phoenix caregivers in the proper use of adaptive equipment.

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 help determine if physical or occupational therapy or both may be the right option for recovery.

Help your elderly loved one get the support he or she needs during therapy by reaching out to Phoenix Home Care Assistance. We are a leading provider of Parkinson’s, dementia, and stroke care Phoenix seniors can count on, and our caregivers can assist with mobility and exercise, provide transportation to therapy appointments, and assist with a wide array of important daily tasks. For more information and to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call 602.388.1085 today.