Physical therapists and occupational therapists help people recover from illness, injury and surgery so that they can move easily and function well in daily life. Physical therapists focus on building up the body and increasing the range of motion and strength. Occupational therapists concentrate on promoting the smooth performance of everyday tasks. Both therapies may be part of a home health care routine or life in an assisted living community or nursing home.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps clients increase motion and decrease pain. After an injury, illness or surgery, seniors can sometimes feel weak and have limited range of movement. Physical therapists guide clients in exercises that can strengthen their muscles, improve flexibility and increase balance. Such routine tasks as walking, sitting, standing and climbing stairs can prove difficult for some people, but therapy allows them to regain these skills. They may also learn how to safely get in and out of bed or a chair and how to prevent falls. In addition, physical therapy offers tips for proper posture and helps people improve motions, such as bending, reaching and grasping.

Pain control is another routine goal of physical therapy. Therapists may use warm-water therapy, heat or cold, ultrasound techniques and massage for pain management. Stretching exercises may also prove beneficial. Therapists teach clients how to properly use devices such as walkers and canes for increased safety and movement and carefully monitor overall progress and make suggestions for further treatment and therapy sessions. Physical therapy usually continues outside regular sessions, for clients often receive exercises to do at home throughout the day to further increase movement.

Occupational Therapy

While physical therapy concentrates on building the body, increasing movement and managing pain, occupational therapy is all about performing daily tasks with ease. Occupational therapists work with clients to develop and perfect a wide range of activities. These may include bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and other personal care routines.  Therapists also help clients build their skills to enjoy leisure activities; perform household tasks, such as cleaning and laundry; fix meals and care for pets. Even writing and using a computer may be on the list of skills an occupational therapist can assist in building.

Occupational therapy seeks to help clients increase their coarse and fine motor skills, prevent falls and adapt to new abilities after stroke or injury or in the case of developing conditions, such as blindness. Therapists work on eye-hand coordination, balance and memory, provide plenty of adaptive tips and offer instruction about how to use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, properly and safely. They sometimes even reorganize clients’ spaces for greater accessibility and a smooth flow.

Safety is a top priority as well, and occupational therapists perform safety evaluations and make suggestions for their clients that may include everything from removing throw rugs to installing a stair lift. Finally, therapists help clients create routines that are safe, flexible and comfortable so that they can live a quality life and find fulfillment and happiness.