CAREGIVING- usually involves much more that making meals, changing beds and helping a loved onE move around the house. For many caregivers, a major responsibility is often selecting, and then overseeing, the medical professionals and services a loved one requires.

One area that often causes confusion is the myriad of professional that work with people needing rehabilitation services; services that help restore a person physically after an injury, stroke or other medical problem. To help the savvy caregiver better understand what is available and what these different professionals do, here is a rundown of the major providers of rehabilitation care. 

PHYSICAL THERAPIST-Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat people of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Becoming a physical therapist requires having a master’s degree in physical therapy and passing a licensure examination. PTs can help people rehabilitate from injuries or diseases affecting muscles, joints, nerves and bones. They work in hospitals, clinics, rehab centers and often will come to a person’s home as part of a care regiment. 

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST-Occupational Therapists provide skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives by providing programs and therapies that give people skills necessary for independent and daily living. Occupational Therapists develop customized treatment plans to improve a person’s ability to perform daily activities; provide home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations; adaptive equipment recommendations along with usage training and guidance to caregivers and other family members. At minimum, an occupational therapist has a bachelor’s degree in the field and many have master’s or doctorate degrees.

SPEECH THERAPISTS-A Speech Therapist is a specialist with training in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of speech, voice and language disorders who works with people unable to make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly. They also work with people who stutter, have fluency and rhythm problems, inappropriate pitch or harsh voice and speech quality problems. Speech therapists have master’s degrees in speech therapy along with many hours of additional supervised clinical training. Often helping people recovering from strokes or other disabling conditions, Speech Therapist can help an individual regain their ability to communicate clearly.

RECREATIONAL THERAPIST-Recreational Therapists are health care providers using recreational therapy interventions for improved functioning of individuals with illness or disabling conditions. Sometimes referred to as therapeutic recreational therapists, these professional use a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music and community outings to treat and maintain the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their clients. Qualified recreational therapists have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field.

Generally, finding any of the rehabilitation therapists is easy. Call your local hospital or home care agency. Your loved one’s doctor is another good source of referral. Also, there are many websites that have directories of these professionals. Enter the therapy type into a search bar on your computer and you will be directed to a number of organizations providing these services.