After the Air Ambulance: Typical Forms of Patient Therapy
Many of the patients who use MedFlight911 worldwide air ambulance service suffered a significant trauma and need air medical transport to a specialized treatment facility or a convalescent care (recovery) facility. Nearly all of these patients will eventually do some sort of therapy. But what does “therapy” mean in this context?
The terms "physical therapy," "occupational therapy," and "speech therapy" are commonly used with little to no explanation or description of the type of therapy, what it entails, and ultimately how and why it helps your loved one. So let's answer some of those questions here.
Physical therapy (PT)
Physical therapy is a health care specialty that involves treatment of the muscles and skeletal system. The goal is to restore, as much as possible, independence of movement to a patient while working to avoid future injuries. When health problems, a recent fall, or surgery make it difficult for a person to move and perform everyday tasks, his or her doctor will typically prescribe physical therapy. Physical therapists use cold and hot packs, electrical stimulation, targeted exercise, and massage to accomplish specified goals. Common ailments that can benefit from physical therapy include:
- Joint replacement
- Back pain
- Tendon or ligament problems
- Spinal stenosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic pain
Physical therapists can also assist patients in the late stages of a disease process or while in hospice. In those situations, the therapist assists the patient to maintain his or her functional abilities for as long as possible, reduce the care burden for caregivers, and assist in pain control and the avoidance of bed sores.
Occupational therapy (OT)
Occupational therapy and physical therapy are often confused. This is understandable as physical and occupational therapists will often work as a team to help a patient. Occupational therapy is focused on a person's functional abilities. Occupational therapists do not treat injuries like physical therapists do; rather, they help the patient regain his or her independence and ability to accomplish tasks after an injury. Occupational therapy also focuses on both the mental and physical abilities required to complete a task. Mental illness, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders are all issues commonly addressed in occupational therapy. Additionally, an occupational therapist can evaluate and determine a client's need for orthotics/splints, adaptive equipment, and home modifications.
Speech therapy is a treatment program designed to help patients regain and increase their ability to communicate through speech. Speech therapists are often called in after speech loss or increased difficulty in swallowing after a stroke or trauma, and after surgery involving the mouth or throat. Speech therapy includes the repetitive exercises and devices that make communication easier. A speech therapist can also aid with chewing, swallowing, and other issues involved with eating.
Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of making art to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. Art therapy is often used to reduce stress and to aid individuals in dealing with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and the emotional and psychological difficulties related to illness, trauma, and loss of abilities. Art therapists use a variety of mediums to best allow patients to express themselves.
Things to consider
When choosing a therapist, here are some issues to consider:
- You want a therapist who is experienced with the patient’s particular health or issues. If the patient is receiving therapy as an inpatient, for example in a rehabilitation facility for individuals who had strokes, then the therapists will be well versed in their needs; if you are looking for an outpatient therapist, you’ll likely have to do more due diligence to find the right one.
- If you are considering outpatient treatment for your loved one, can his or her doctor recommend a therapist?
- Does the patient need a referral from his or her physician?
- Will the patient’s insurance company pay for the therapy?
We know that as air ambulance providers we’re just one step in chain of care of a patient. But we also understand that caregivers – family members, friends, and other loved ones – are looking to understand the other aspects of the patient’s care, once they’ve left the air ambulance. So that’s our goal in our caregiver blog posts: to help you understand the bigger picture of your loved one’s care. If you have a question, or an issue you’d like us to address, please let us know.