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Occupational vs. Physical Therapy: Whats Right for Your Aging Loved One?
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on August 5th, 2014

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Occupational vs. Physical Therapy: Whats Right for Your Aging Loved One?

assisted living  |  senior health tips  |  60-day stay trial  |  Aging & Caregiving

ot-vs-ptBecause everyday needs and capabilities change throughout the aging process, extra effort may be required to help maintain optimal health and independence.

As a caregiver, you may be wondering whether physical therapy (PT) and/or occupational therapy (OT) is right for your parent.

Understanding the options can help you make informed choices toward promoting an active and fulfilling quality of life for your aging loved one.

The 411 on PT

PT is primarily designed for individuals who are experiencing physical dysfunction -- either skeletal or neuromuscular. Customized to suit a patient’s individual needs, PT comprises a broad spectrum of therapeutic treatments. In its most common sense, PT includes exercises and training designed to enhance coordination, balance, flexibility endurance, stability, posture and muscle function. Additionally, PT promotes increased range-of-motion through joint and soft tissue manipulation. Lesser-known aspects of PT include wound care and pain management.

Overall, physical therapy can enhance your loved one’s mobility both at home and within his/her community.

The 411 on OT

There is some overlap between the roles of physical therapists and occupational therapists, but their primary purposes differ: while physical therapists focus on treating physical impairments, occupational therapists promote enhanced functionality within a patient's social and physical environments.

Designed to improve an individual's ability to perform daily activities, OT may include education in everyday activities, such as bathing, dressing, eating and hygiene-related tasks. Occupational therapists may also introduce adaptive techniques for living with physical disabilities and/or the use of adaptive equipment and other home safety modifications. OT can also treat cognitive issues, such as memory and orientation. Like PT, OT may include exercises that strengthen coordination and foster normal joint movement.

Both PT and OT are usually available to patients through a physician's referral. If you are wondering whether your parent would benefit from PT or OT, talk with his/her primary care doctor. In many cases, these treatments can significantly improve your aging loved one's abilities, independence and quality of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Physical therapy focuses on improving mobility to promote enhanced functionality and independence
  • Occupational therapy focuses on fostering “occupations”-based skills directly related to daily living
  • If you think an aging loved one would benefit from PT, OT or both, speak with his/her physician

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.