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The Differences Between Occupational and Physical Therapy

The Legacy at Home offers both occupational therapy and physical therapy in the home for seniors living in the Dallas area. However, we’ve noticed that the two types of rehabilitation are often confused, with some people believing the two terms are synonymous. To help clear up the confusion, we’ve put this helpful piece together to explain the differences between them.

While both roles entail providing essential rehabilitative work to help our clients perform everyday tasks as independently as possible, there are significant differences between the two kinds of therapy, as well as a few grey areas where the two overlap. What they do have in common is that all of the therapists who work for The Legacy at Home take a holistic approach to helping people get back to their normal way of life.

Occupational Therapy

When compared to physical therapy, occupational therapy tends to focus more on evaluating and improving a person’s functional abilities. The Legacy at Home’s occupational therapists don’t usually treat a person’s injury directly like a physical therapist would. More often, the occupational therapist helps people increase their independence and improve their ability to accomplish the activities of daily living after an injury or in situations where the person is physically impaired.

Helping people improve their ability to carry out their tasks of daily living is the primary goal of an occupational therapist. The occupational therapists at The Legacy at Home also perform on-site assessments of the home environment and give recommendations on ways to adapt to the home to allow for a better quality of life. Our occupational therapists are trained to modify the physical environment as well as train the person to use assistive equipment to increase independence.

Examples of occupational therapist services:

  • Conduct patient assessments and evaluations to determine their physical condition, limitations, medical histories and personal goals
  • Advise family members and other supportive individuals about the level of care the patient needs
  • Teach patients how to interact with adaptive technology
  • Show patients how to use assistive devices

Examples of someone who needs occupational therapist services include:

  • Anyone who suffers from chronic pain, arthritis or other age-related issue who needs help with activities of daily living (i.e., dressing, bathing, eating, etc.)
  • A person who has recently lost mobility (e.g., someone who just had a joint replacement) and needs help learning how to use a mobility scooter, wheelchair, etc.
  • An older adult wishing to age in place who may need some modifications to their surroundings to make their daily lives easier (e.g., built-up eating utensils, semi-automatic cutting boards, bathroom/bathtub bench handles).

Physical Therapy

The Legacy at Home’s physical therapists are more focused on evaluating and diagnosing problems with movement, as well as directly treating a person’s injury. While an occupational therapist may weigh in on a diagnosis, the physical therapist will be the one to give the final diagnosis and treat the actual physical source of the problem.

The main difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy is that physical therapists help patients restore physical function, while occupational therapists focus on how a patient’s level of function affects their ability to do the things they want to do – and how the situation can be improved.

Examples of physical therapist services:

  • Devise detailed treatment and care plans for each patient
  • Communicate and coordinate with patients’ physicians to ensure a consistent level of care
  • Visit patients in their homes and at other facilities to conduct therapy
  • Evaluate and report on patients’ progress

Examples of someone who needs physical therapist services include:

  • Someone with a condition that causes chronic pain such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Physical therapy can reduce pain and offset future symptoms.
  • Anyone who has had a recent fall. Our physical therapists will work with patients to heal injuries and educate them about ways they can prevent them in the future.
  • Anyone who wants to lessen their need for prescription medications. Many conditions treated with prescription drugs can be wholly or partly alleviated through a physical therapy regimen, reducing the need for more prescription medicine.

Overlap Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Although the two professions differ in their focus, there is a good deal of crossover between occupational therapy and physical therapy. For example, an occupational therapist is often involved in educating people on how to prevent and avoid injuries, as well as educating people about the healing process, just like a physical therapist.

Physical therapists in turn often help people improve their ability to do their daily activities through education and training. While there is this crossover between professions, both play very important roles and are specialized in their areas of expertise. In many situations, both types of health care  professionals are involved in injury recovery.

Therapy Services in Dallas Through The Legacy at Home

Offering therapy services (including physical, occupational, and speech therapy) in addition to Medicare-certified skilled medical care and companionship assistance, The Legacy at Home is Dallas’ premier home health care agency.

If you or your loved one is under the care of a doctor and homebound due to illness, injury or surgery, we can help you while you remain safely at home. Our team includes skilled nurses, therapists and medical social workers who are all experts at coordinating the specific care and individualized programs tailored to fit the needs of each client.

Ultimately, our goal is to help seniors in Greater Dallas safely regain their independence, age in place in their homes and become as healthy and self-sufficient as possible. If you’d like to learn more about receiving therapy through The Legacy at Home, please feel free to reach out to us. We are a resource not only for our clients, but for the community as well. Call our experts at (972) 244-7701 or visit click here to learn more.

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