FAQ's - Physical/Occupational Therapy

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) - Physical/Occupational Therapy

1.  What is the difference between Physical and Occupational therapy?

Occupational Therapists (OT) help individuals achieve independence and improve one's ability to perform daily activities and self-care. For example, OT's may help a patient learn to dress themselves, brush their teeth or comb their hair after a stroke or illness that has severely weakened their arms.

Physical therapists (PT) focus on the large motor groups that contribute to walking, reaching, standing and physical activities. They work on strength, balance, range of motion and swelling as well as pain to encourage independence. 

2.  How do I get a PT/OT referral?

Your doctor will write an order for a PT or OT evaluation if they are concerned about your discharge needs and safety. Talk to your doctor if you feel you may benefit from our services. 


3.  What type of equipment does PT/OT provide?

During a PT or OT evaluation, the patient may demonstrate some difficulty completing functional tasks independently.  There are several pieces of equipment that can be used to facilitate a patient's independence and safety.  A PT might recommend an assistive device for walking, such as a rolling walker or a cane to improve a patient's stability and prevent falls.  An OT might recommend some assistive devices to enable a patient to pick things up off the ground without risking falls by bending over (a reacher) or a long handled sponge to use in the shower so that the patient can clean their back and their feet by themselves.  Please see the section devoted to Technology for a full list of equipment used by the PT/OT department. 

  4.  What is the PT/OT's role in discharging a patient? 

The PT and OT perform an evaluation on a patient after a doctor has written an order for their services in the chart.  During this evaluation, the PT and OT have the patient perform several tasks that physically challenge them to determine any functional deficits that might impair their ability to be independent.   From this evaluation, the PT and OT are able to determine whether they feel the patient is safe to return to their home environment and whether the patient may benefit from continued skilled therapy.  If a PT or OT feels that the patient is not going to be safe or independent in their home, they will  make recommendations on the safest place for the patient to be discharged to as well as any equipment or further rehab services that might be helpful to the patient to assist them in returning to their prior level of function.  

 5.  What is the difference between Subacute rehab, Acute rehab and a Skilled Nursing Facility? 

An acute rehab facility is a place that offers intensive physical and occupational therapy 6 days a week, 3 hours a day.  To be accepted, a patient must demonstrate deficits that would necessitate the services of at least 2 disciplines, ie. PT, OT or speech language services.  A PT or OT will usually recommend this setting for a patient who has good activity tolerance and will progress quickly back to their functional baseline. 

A subacute rehab facility is a place that offers intensive PT and OT services, though only 5 days a week for 2 hours a day.  A patient only needs to demonstrate deficits within the services of one discipline.  A PT or OT will usually recommend this setting for a patient who has limited activity tolerance and requires frequent rest breaks.  This would also be an appropriate setting for a patient who may require a longer period of time to reach an independent level of function. 

A skilled nursing facility or SNF is a place that offers skilled nursing care, 24/7.  Patients at this facility may or may not be receiving rehab services and are usually expected to stay for longer periods of time.  Some SNFs have long term care units that are designed for those patients who will most likely not return to a independent level of function because of chronic disease and increasing frailty and need constant care and support.

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