Physical Therapy: Treating Senior Citizens as Individuals, Not A Group

For patients, regardless of how elderly, who are seeking to improve their quality of life through physical therapy, it’s important for the therapist to remember that the future years their patients are fighting to enjoy may be the best years of their lives.

Today’s Guest Post talks about treating senior citizens with the same dignity and respect we all deserve.

Patients of physical therapy come from Philadelphia, Shanghai, and everywhere in between.   Senior citizens may seem like a very group of very similar problems, since problems tend to be a regular occurrence as one grows older. One example by WebMd states the grand majority has arthritis in their spine by age 65, even if just a mild case.

This is simply not the case. Elderly, young, or in between. Every patient brings his or her own unique issues and circumstances. For example, patients may have existing conditions, they may have had a heart attack or been or took a bad fall. This is why doctors and therapists need such vast study before they may even begin to work with a patient alone.

Elderly folks sometimes have trouble kneeling to pick up items, some have trouble getting out of bed, some may be battling full paralysis. 

One could confidently say that no two cases are exactly the same. The areas in which physical therapy for seniors find common ground, though, is often in re-establishing the patients’ independence. Most people at any age want to live an independent lifestyle. Recovering from an injury is as crucial as preventing further deterioration, and elderly patients seek to restore strength and coordination, as well as some flexibility and endurance. Rarely is a patient looking to reclaim his glory days on a football field, but he would love to play with his grandchildren, be active in his retired life, and continue to perform his every-day tasks.

Three ailments commonly treated with physical therapy are incontinence, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Muscle groups can be isolated and exercised to help control the bladder for incontinence, extension and stability exercises can keep balance and posture intact for osteoporosis, and post-surgical swelling can be reduced while range of motion can be improved for cancer patients.

For patients, regardless of how elderly, who are seeking to improve their quality of life through physical therapy, it’s important for the therapist to remember that the future years their patients are fighting to enjoy may be the best years of their lives. Elderly patients may finally be ready to travel and enjoy their retirement, or be irreplaceable parts of their grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s child care. There is no such thing as giving up on a patient because of his age. Joints do stiffen, strength and balance do ebb, and sobering diagnoses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s do drop like bombs into what had been a tranquil life. But the body can be kept flexible, muscles can be strengthened, and the brain can be retrained with patterns of movement. There is never an it’s too late moment but therapists must balance that belief with the setting of reasonable and attainable goals.

Sometimes it’s the patient herself who might dictate the movements in her physical therapy. An Alzheimer’s patient whose memory is failing might remember all the steps to her favorite dances and a therapist would be wise to follow her lead and structure sessions around remembered movements.

In this way, a physical therapist can bring an elderly patient not only a measure of healing, but also joy.
Working with the patient’s family members is another way a physical therapist can help restore strength to a patient who is perhaps recovering from a long illness. The family is often shocked at the amount of physical deterioration that can happen to their loved one during a hospital stay their commitment to making sure an elderly patient attends his physical therapy sessions and keeps up with his at-home exercises can make all the difference whether he is independent again. 

Families should also be encouraged to support their loved one’s nutrition. Many family members might feel like they are all thumbs while they are helping with the exercises, and some families are shy and private about the very hands-on methods of physical therapy. Some have the sense that they are violating their elder member’s personal space, and they back off, right when up-front support is needed. For those that are touch-shy but kitchen-wise, they can easily support their loved one’s digestive system instead. Stocking the kitchen stocked with pre-made, re-heatable healthy snacks and meals will go a long way towards helping their loved one recover.

Interested in a physical therapist of your own? If you are in Pennsylvania, please consider Fast track for  Physical therapy in Philadelphia .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *