It’s National Rehabilitation Awareness Week. People of all ages engage in “Rehabilitation Therapy,” which refers to the trio of Physical, Occupational and Speech/Language therapies. These can be some of the most helpful and integrative therapies seniors participate in, as these three work in tandem to help teach new ways of accomplishing things in daily life. These therapies are often used after surgery or an accident, but can also work together as solutions to avoid surgery or reliance on medications.
Is your loved one coming home after surgery or time spent in a rehabilitation facility? Be sure to take precautions to make sure the environment is safe! Download this handy Discharge Home Safety Checklist.
Physical Therapy (PT) is used to help address the effects of disease, injury, and disability by using exercise, manual therapy, education, and therapeutic activity. The primary goal of PT is to improve movement and help reduce the pain associated with immobility. Imagine your loved one rising stiffly from their chair or hunching painfully. Physical therapy will work to help them feel less pain when performing these simple tasks. PT can also be used to help reduce or prevent injury, which can enable a person to avoid surgery or decrease reliance on medications.
Occupational Therapy (OT) is directed at helping your senior to regain some level of independence in their daily activities. These therapies can improve skills with cooking, bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and more. Maybe your loved one is losing weight unnecessarily merely because they are having difficulty feeding themselves or preparing their meals. OT can regain a level of independence for them. Much of the work by an OT can be done in the home. In some cases, these adjustments may include assistive devices such as splints, braces, or canes.
Speech-language pathology (SLP) is used to help your senior with communication, swallowing, and/or eating. Communicating effectively and swallowing safely can play a huge role in a patient’s ability to participate in social rituals like mealtime, make their wants and needs known, connect with their loved ones, or continue working in a specific vocation. SLPs work with individuals with a variety of diagnoses (ranging from stroke and autism spectrum disorder to head and neck cancer and traumatic brain injury).
How Rehabilitation Therapies Work Together
Imagine a senior has had a stroke. An SLP can help them communicate their fears, desires, and successes with you and with the care team. A PT steps in to strengthen weakened muscles and help regain some bilateral strength, keeping other muscles from being injured when compensating for weak ones. An OT will assist them with re-learning how to cook (and possibly even how to eat), open doors, button and zip clothes, and move from sitting to standing.
The goals of each therapy are very specific:
- Goals of PT
- Diagnose physical problems restricting movement because of an illness or injury
- Ease pain & boost mobility and muscle strength through exercises and other techniques
- Develop fitness and wellness programs aimed at preventing injuries and encouraging a more active lifestyle
- Goals of OT
- Help patients with daily living skills and self-care tasks such as getting dressed
- Support patients with memory loss or other cognitive issues
- Make recommendations about adaptive equipment
- Goals of SLP
- Strengthen the muscles in the mouth, jaw, and neck
- Help people work on goals related to social communication
- Evaluate and provide treatment plans for feeding and swallowing challenges
One of the most notable losses during aging is mobility. Even if dementia or Alzheimer’s sets in, your loved one will still want to be active, communicate, go out to eat, care for and dress themselves, or move about their living space with some ease. These are the activities that the PT/OT/SLP team can help with to prolong a sense of independence. These three therapies are valid for anyone who has any form of mobility issues, including those with Parkinson’s, dementia, stroke, or muscular degeneration.
Often the physical side of aging can be overlooked in the process of treating the emotional and mental changes. There is solid evidence that physical activity can be effective for stemming the progression of dementia and providing a level of happiness and independence not gained by merely working with their mental losses. The techniques used by therapists would be like those used to treat patients with brain injury from trauma, stroke, or other brain conditions such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
In the first few hours, days, or weeks at home after being discharged from the hospital or rehab facility, you or your loved one may need some extra help. Assisting Hands serving Columbus, OH is always ready to step in, and we have specific programs to meet these special needs. Give us a call – we’re here to help.
SOURCES: ClearCare, Autism Speaks, Allied Health Schools, PT in Motion