Geriatric rehabilitation, including physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, treats diseases and conditions associated with aging, including stroke, hip and knee replacements, cardiovascular defects, osteoporosis, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. By understanding what rehabilitation services have to offer, you can make well-informed choices.
Physical therapists (PT) can help enhance mobility and quality of life by improving strength, balance, endurance, flexibility and posture. Physical therapy services are available in multiple settings including the hospital, rehab hospital, nursing home, outpatient clinic, adult medical day care, and at home.
In the hospital, rehab hospital or long-term care facility, most treatment sessions take place either in a hospital room or "therapy gym." You may see stationary bicycles, treadmills, arm bikes as well as machines like the leg press. Your loved one may perform exercises lying down in bed or on a padded mat table to improve ability to get in and out of bed.
Doing exercises with weights while sitting increases strength and ability to get out of a chair, while exercises with weights while standing improve strength, balance and ability to walk. "Parallel bars" are available to provide support for both hands as the patient practices walking.
Physical therapy in the home is for those who are unable to leave home due to their medical status. The goal for PT at home is to maximize function at home and community to improve quality of life. Your loved one may do strengthening exercises lying on the bed, sitting in a chair or standing at the kitchen counter with weights or exercise resistance bands. Balance exercises may also be part of the mix.
Speech-language pathology services (SLP) boost a person’s ability to communicate and to swallow.
SLP addresses the declines associated with neurological difficulties, age-related illness, and deterioration of the swallowing mechanism. SLP may be able to help your loved one with declines due to brain injury, stroke, cancer, infection, or physical abnormality. It’s used to treat breathing problems due to lung diseases or tracheotomy.
Speech therapists also provide treatment of cognitive-linguistic impairments. This treatment focuses on restoring memory, sequencing, problem solving, safety awareness, attention, and their effects on the function of activities of daily living. Exercises may include breaking down a complicated task, like making a grocery list, to small simple steps.
In this case, the steps include identifying what items you need (problem solving), finding a pen and paper, remembering the words for the items you want (memory), and writing the list (communication).
SLP also helps when a person has trouble speaking, articulating words, or using expressive language, due to conditions such as dysarthria or apraxia (motor speech disorders); hoarse vocal quality; complete or partial loss of voice; or aphasia (a language disorder).
Your loved one may be taught specific exercises to strengthen the muscles of the face, mouth and throat such as blowing out, sipping in through a straw and making specific sounds like "pa" and "ma".
Finally, speech-language pathology plays a critical role in the treatment of dysphagia, or swallowing disorder. The treatment of dysphagia is essential in maintaining healthy lungs and avoiding pneumonia.
Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on the ability to fulfill "occupations" or in other words, Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as getting dressed, toileting, bathing, cooking and recreational activities.
Occupational therapy services are available in many of the same settings as physical therapy. Treatment sessions, either in the hospital room or therapy gym, may focus on posture and use of arms to improve the ability to eat, dress, bathe and perform other ADLs. Exercises may include stretching and strengthening and flexibility. Sometimes, adaptive equipment is used to help the person eat, dress or bathe.
OT in an outpatient facility is not as common as outpatient physical therapy. When it’s offered, outpatient OT is usually for injuries to the hand or arm to maximize function in ADLs, and recreational activities. Patients may use the arm bike, arm exercises with weights, or special "silly putty" to improve hand strength and dexterity.
Hand therapy combines physical and occupational therapy, and involves the rehabilitation of a person’s upper extremities, including the hands, fingers, and wrists, that have been affected by trauma, disease, or a neurological disorder. The aim of treatment is for a patient to be able to have the utmost use of his hand after a diagnosis and to return to a productive life or to live as normal a life as possible. Treatment may also entail providing emotional and psychological support to patients.
Performed at various locations including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, and sports medicine facilities, hand therapy is provided to patients for various reasons. Common conditions that may require hand therapy include fractures, burns, arthritis, amputation of fingers, and nerve damage. Additionally, a person may require hand therapy to assist with carpal tunnel syndrome and to recover from sports injuries. Typically, a patient will need hand therapy to manage acute or chronic pain.