The Different Types of Rehabilitation Therapy for Seniors

The Different Types of Rehabilitation Therapy for Seniors

When you think of rehabilitation, most seniors think of physical therapy. Someone goes to a clinic or has a professional come to their home, where they run through a series of exercises designed to help them gain strength and flexibility, usually to overcome a challenge caused by a specific incident, like learning to walk again after a bad car accident or a knee replacement surgery. And while physical therapy is a very important discipline that helps millions of people every day, there are other types of therapies that don’t get nearly as much press. We’ll start with occupational therapy and speech therapy.

In some cases, these therapies go hand-in-hand. For instance, following a stroke, you might be prescribed all three types of therapies at the same time. If you have a diagnosis of aphasia but no physical problems, you might be prescribed both speech and occupational therapy. But if you are recovering from knee surgery, a few weeks of physical therapy might be all you need.

The goal of any of these therapies is to restore or improve function so that you can live the best life possible. For some, these therapies can help you recover and overcome problems so well that six months from now, you might never know anything bad happened. For others, rehabilitation therapy is a way to adapt to a new set of life circumstances. Either way, the overall goal is to give seniors the best quality of life for the rest of their golden years.

When you are prescribed therapy, your safety and security is paramount, and you’d probably like to restore some peace of mind. Medical alert technology can serve as a sort of safety net that will give you assurance that you are never alone. Keeping an emergency button alarm close at hand means that if anything goes wrong, at any time of the day or night, you can call out for help no matter the situation and no matter the hour. That kind of comfort is invaluable.

Let’s take a look at the different types of rehabilitation therapies that you might encounter as you grow older.

What to Expect from Physical Therapy

This therapy is meant to strengthen the body, improve flexibility, restore range of motion, and relieve pain. Physical therapy is quite common after a major surgery or a serious accident. For instance, if you fall down and break a bone, physical therapy can help you restore the function you need to move around freely. If you had to have a joint replacement following a hip fracture, physical therapy will help you learn to walk independently again. As falls are a common problem for the elderly, with more than one out of four seniors falling each year and one out of five falls resulting in a brain injury or broken bone, it’s likely that many seniors will experience physical therapy at some point.1

In addition to strengthening your body, physical therapy can also help you learn to use adaptive equipment, such as walkers, canes, or prosthetic limbs.  

This might happen on an inpatient, outpatient, or at-home basis. We’ll talk about that more in a bit.

Understanding Occupational Therapy

Though the term “occupational” might make it sound like this type of therapy restores your function so that you can continue working in your current job or career, occupational therapy is much more than that. The idea is to help you regain ability with day-to-day activities that you might take for granted, such as brushing your teeth, eating, or getting dressed.

Occupational therapists recognize that sometimes, the way you did something before isn’t the way you can do it as you get older; for instance, if you have arthritis, as the condition gets worse over time you might struggle with fastening buttons or tying shoelaces. This can make life very difficult for you. Occupational therapy finds ways to modify your day-to-day life so that you can continue to do the things you need to do to stay as independent as possible, such as using different techniques, skills, or modifications to be able to do things on your own. Affordable medical alert systems also help seniors maintain independence for as long as possible.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is just what it sounds like – therapy that focuses on speech and language to help someone better communicate after an illness, injury, or progressing medical condition. Speech therapy can also help those who have difficulty with swallowing. It is usually provided by a speech-language pathologist or assistant who is well-versed in the way the lips, tongue, and mouth work to create sound, as well as the pathways in the brain that help us go from thought to expression.

Speech therapy is often prescribed for those who have suffered a stroke, are living with dementia or Parkinson’s disease, or have suffered an accident or trauma that has left them with difficulty speaking. The goal is to combine the physical mechanics of speech with the mental creation of language to help someone communicate more effectively.

But speech therapy can also focus on the type of speaking that makes no sound, such as learning to read lips, engage in sign language, learn how to use assistive devices to speak for you, or communicate in ways that don’t involve speech.

Inpatient, Outpatient, or At Home Therapy

Your rehabilitation therapy might take place in a hospital or clinic, at an outpatient rehabilitation center or other medical or health facility, or in the privacy of your own home.

Inpatient therapy refers to the treatment you receive before you are discharged from a hospital. Those who have undergone major surgery, such as a hip replacement or transplant, might need therapy before they can go home. Those who have suffered a spinal cord injury, brain injury, or amputation might have to learn to do many things in a different way, such as learning to walk, talk, or eat. This process starts in the hospital before they are sent home.

Outpatient therapy happens when a person is discharged from the hospital or clinic but still needs therapy of some kind. Outpatient therapy can be a blend of many different therapies, but especially the three “big ones” of speech, physical, and occupational therapy.

The outpatient therapy might be for a few hours each day or only once a week, depending upon your situation and the goals of the therapy. You might also need outpatient therapy if your plan calls for the use of exercise equipment or devices that you might not have at home or can’t use safely anywhere other than in the clinic.

At-home therapies are those that are brought to you, by the therapist coming to your home to work with you, or those that you can do on your own without any supervision. These are usually basic services. These are often used in conjunction with outpatient therapy.

At-home therapy might also come into play when you have already made great progress in first inpatient therapy, then outpatient therapy – the at-home therapy is about maintaining what you have learned and applying it to your day-to-day life.

When you are engaging in any type of therapy, especially at home, it’s a great idea to have an emergency medical alert button. Whether it’s a medical alert pendant or an emergency button alarm wristband, the goal is to have a device that can allow you to call for help right away, no matter the situation. If you ever suffer a problem while engaging in in-home therapy, that button alert could be a lifesaver.

Other Types of Rehabilitation Services

There are other types of rehabilitation that might be used in conjunction with speech, occupational, or physical therapy.

·        Music. This therapy can enhance mood, promote self-expression, and reduce stress. It might include listening to and studying music, dancing to it, or creating it by singing, playing instruments, or writing it. Singing can be a nice enhancement to speech therapy.

·        Art. Creating art can do the same things music therapy can do but can allow for more hands-on work, which is a good way to combine it with physical or occupational therapy. For instance, using paintbrushes on canvas or spatulas on a clay sculpture can improve dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

·        Respiratory. Those who suffer from COPD and other issues that affect their ability to breathe can benefit from this therapy, which focuses on helping a person keep their airway open, reduce respiratory distress, and use supplemental oxygen, inhalers, and other assistive devices properly.

·        Vocational. Those who want to return to work after they have suffered an injury or illness that affects their ability to do their job could benefit from vocational therapy. The therapist will look at the job requirements and find ways to help the patient fulfill them, usually through some type of modification of their physical ability or behavior.

·        Cognitive. This therapy is designed for those who need to improve their memory, reasoning, and thinking skills. This might also be called cognitive-behavior rehabilitation.

As you go through a variety of therapies to restore your quality of life, it’s a good idea to keep a senior life-saving alert system as your constant companion. Having an at-home or mobile (on-the-go) medical alarm right at your fingertips can bring you peace of mind that if you suffer any sort of accident or emergency, you can get the help you need at a moment’s notice.

What Do Therapy Appointments Look Like?

Whether you are engaging in physical, speech, or occupational therapy, the visits to the provider will usually follow the same pattern:

1.      Evaluation. Your therapist will examine your medical history, current illness or injury, and how those things affect your day-to-day life. They will then assess your current abilities. As you go through therapy, you will be evaluated regularly to assess how well the therapy is working.

2.      Treatment plan. This individualized plan takes into account your current situation, limitations, and goals. Your therapist will look at the assessments, the goals you have for your care, and create a treatment plan that will focus on hitting certain milestones. For instance, someone with arthritis might want to regain more use of their hands, and if they can’t do that, they might want to learn to use adaptive equipment to eat and cook.

3.      Exercises. This is the part of therapy that requires hard work on your part. Your therapist will show you how to perform certain exercises. For those in speech therapy, this might include learning to move your tongue in a certain way to make sounds; for those in occupational therapy, it might mean improving fine dexterity by working with a needle and thread. Physical therapy exercises will target the parts of the body that need to be strengthened or more flexible.

4.      Practice. Though some of this can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis, to get the most out of your rehabilitation, you will need to practice at home, assuming that you have the proper equipment and help to do so. This could be as easy as using hand weights to strengthen your arms or speaking to someone to practice new speech patterns. Some physical therapy can be enhanced with very easy exercises, such as lifting your legs up and down while in a sitting position or using resistance bands. But some therapies, especially some physical therapy, will need to take place with the therapist or a therapist assistant.

5.      Education and advice. Your therapist will explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you stand to gain from it. They will also provide you with education on what you can expect from your efforts, such as how much mobility you could realistically regain. They will advise you on ways to stay safe in the future, such as how to prevent falls or how to modify your home to accommodate your new needs.

6.      Monitoring progress. As you move through your treatment plan, your therapist will monitor how well it is going and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. You might breeze through the exercises and reach goals quickly, or you might find that the initial plan was too ambitious and that smaller goals are a better idea at first. The most important aspect of therapy is that you are making steady progress.

No matter the therapy, it’s important for seniors to stay safe and secure. That’s where a medical alert device comes in. Having an emergency response system on your person at all times ensures that if you do suffer a fall or other emergency, you can reach out for help right away. If you opt for a fall detection alarm, you are in even better hands, as the alarm button can reach out to the monitoring center the moment it detects a fall, which means you don’t even have to press the button. Let Alert1 help you stay safe through your rehabilitation journey and beyond!