Last year, CNN released a list of the fastest-growing careers in the United States, and six of the top 10 jobs were in the healthcare field. It’s not suprising; North America’s booming aging population is creating a growing need for sufficient medical care and attention.
Some of these fast-growing medical careers are familiar to most people: doctors and nurses, to name a couple. But other healthcare specialists, while lacking the visibility of doctors and nurses, have grown in number in recent years.
Physical Therapists (PTs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs) are two of these roles, and they have been playing an increasingly large role in maintaining the health and wellness of millions of North Americans.
PTs and OTs have similar, complementary, roles in the healthcare process. Physical Therapists aim to help patients regain strength and flexibility in their muscles, as well as reducing pain, with the help of non-surgical therapy, often as a result of accident or injury. This rehabilitation is typically focused on the part of the body experiencing discomfort or weakness, and typically includes movements and rotations in that area (for example, the shoulder, neck or knee).
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are experts in human movement, and seniors and seniors and the elderly can potentially fight off – or even prevent – chronic diseases with the help of a physical therapist.
“There is potential for every system to become a little compromised as we age,” Alice Bell, spokesperson for the APTA, told RetirementHomes.com. “If we do nothing, we can very quickly fly down the slippery slope where we begin to lose function.”
Bell added that physical exercise plans are a central feature in healthy aging, but the expertise of a physical therapist is essential.
“As we age, it’s vitally important to have the right dose of exercise, what kinds of exercise, how we get the best results, and how we do it safely when we factor in the chronic disease,” she said.
Occupational Therapists, in contrast, work to help patients engage in effective and meaningful daily activities that they may be having challenges performing.
Their efforts are more specific and focused than that of physical therapists, and occupational therapists would typically evaluate patients and determine which activities are causing difficulties. In response, the proscribed action might include examining potential adaptive equipment and other options.
The American Occupational Therapy Association says its members specialize in a number of different areas, including aging.
For Baby Boomers and seniors looking to achieve or maintain optimal health, both physical therapists and occupational therapists play an important role.