Family Physical Therapy is an essential health care discipline concerned with identifying, rehabilitating, and optimizing the level of movement and function potential in patients of all ages. Physical Therapists usually diagnose and treat infants, children, and adults with physical disorders or other physical impairments that limit their movements or ability to engage in physical activity. Common disorders include cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, hip or knee replacement, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. Other therapeutic challenges are balance and coordination difficulties, muscular pain, head injuries, and low back pain. A Physical Therapy professional helps patients explore, manage, and ultimately overcome these challenges through a comprehensive program of treatment that involves education, exercise, modification of equipment or prosthetic use, and surgery. The goal of therapy is to improve the patient’s functional ability and to reduce disabilities, pain, and suffering.
To help patients acquire the skills they need to self-treat, family physical therapy often coordinates and teaches individuals, families, and doctors participating in a treatment program. The most effective treatments are those that reinforce the individual’s strengths and use those weaknesses to the benefit of the patient. In addition to individualized instruction, family therapists also provide information and resources about body mechanics, self-help techniques, and medical/alcoholic symptomatology. This information and education not only empower the patient, but can help a family member to become more knowledgeable about his or her own health and treatment options. In fact, research has indicated that there is a higher success rate for patients with family members involved in their treatment programs than with those with therapists alone.
To enhance the therapeutic relationship, it is important that physical therapists and parents/family members work together in the treatment process. Early identification of any limitations, current or past, facilitates early intervention and optimal management of the patient’s condition. Family members and physical therapists should work together in determining the frequency and intensity of therapy for each patient. A patient and his family should have a role in the decision making regarding length and frequency of physical therapy, as well as the choice of equipment and exercise programs.
Family members should be encouraged to view the progress of their family member(s) during the course of therapy. A positive attitude and increased involvement by the family members can significantly improve the outcome of physical therapy. It can be especially beneficial if the patient and his family member(s) share personal goals and work together to achieve them. For example, the physical therapist may want to include the patient in all decisions regarding exercise, dress, and medication regimens. If the family and the patient work together to create a personalized plan of action that meets the needs of the patient and his family, then the results can be greatly improved.
As with any type of therapy, family participation is essential. This can be particularly beneficial if a patient has a medical condition that requires frequent physical therapy, such as osteoporosis. Many times a family member or friend will have past experience of the difficulty that a person with this type of medical condition may experience in recovering from surgery or injury. Family members may also be able to provide emotional support that is lacking during the treatment process.
When a patient is in need of care, he should never turn his back on his friends and family members. Physical therapy can be an extremely rewarding experience for patients and their family members, but it can also be a trying period of time. Although no patient is “saving” himself or herself through physical therapy, the emotional support of family members can make a significant difference in the success of the treatment process. Therefore, anyone who suffers an injury or illness requiring physical therapy should consider getting the help of his or her family.