What part should a Physical Therapist play in the lives of our seniors? What goals should we have for fitness as an older adult? What skills and experiences does a Physical Therapist bring to the table?
The role of Physical Therapy in healthy aging is significant. Professional treatment can prevent injury and slow functional decline due to disease or progressive conditions. Physical fitness and other preventative activities are especially important as we age. I love helping our patients improve their balance, strength, stability, and activity tolerance. We want to be able to prevent future problems, like a fall, by improving or maintaining the ability to get around safely. Let us intervene before an incident occurs.
Keeping seniors safe, confident, and happy in their homes
is our number one goal!
But what happens when an injury has already occurred? A Physical Therapist will work with the patient’s medical team to provide treatment, but more importantly, they will investigate the root of the problem. Why did the patient fall or suffer an injury? What can be improved so this doesn’t happen again? Treating an injury after it happens is the perception most people have of the role of a Physical Therapist. But it is only part of what we do. Our focus should be on prevention! This will lead to safer and more independent living as we age.
Physical fitness plays a large part in healthy aging. The fitness goals designed for senior patients begin at the Physical Therapy evaluation. These goals are updated throughout the course of treatment as the patient increases their strength, balance, and ability.
Every patient’s needs are different, and therapy is tailored depending on their disability, risk of falling, fitness level and personal interests. It is the constant monitoring of the patient’s progress and condition, along with continually adjusting the treatment plan, that results in the best outcomes. And, because the Physical Therapist is not always present, it is vital to collaborate with family members, the primary care doctor, and caregivers. Our therapists train the caregivers and family members on how to safely assist the patient. We see the best results with teamwork!
Look at this informative article on the role of the physical therapist in healthy aging, from the National Council on Aging, on 5 key aspects of fitness at any age.
5 Key Aspects of Fitness:
What education and skills does a Physical Therapist bring to their patients? Lots! All our therapists are Doctors of Physical Therapy, with over 3 years of graduate school training in areas such as biology, anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology.
These fields combine to help the therapist treat the whole patient. I find that best results come via this holistic approach, where the therapist screens every body system and addresses each finding throughout the course of treatment.
I also consider a course of treatment a great success when past hobbies and leisure activities are incorporated. Our therapists really get to know their patients and enjoy finding out what is gratifying and motivating to them.
If you are anything like me, the simple joy of being outside works wonders. Therapeutic activities such as reaching to arrange flowers, standing and gardening at a mounted planter or putting a golf ball might just be the encouragement the patient needs to participate in a customized therapy plan. One of our patients, for example, is an avid golfer but hasn’t been able to play in years. At the start of therapy this patient was not even able to stand safely or walk alone. Through extensive therapy, and with the support of the therapist, this patient was able to build up to standing and putting a golf ball. This meant the world to the patient!
We use these fun hobbies to encourage safe movement, regain balance and build strength. But the real goal is to maximize quality of life by adding daily activities that promote a less sedentary lifestyle.
Check out the backgrounds and talents
of some of our amazing MobilePT
Physical and Occupational Therapists!
Will a senior benefit from Physical Therapy at this stage of aging? Yes! Everyone can feel better and see results. October is National Physical Therapy Month. Let’s include Physical Therapy in your goals of healthy aging. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. I welcome your ideas and questions.
Keep on your feet!
Dan Sheehy is a Physical Therapist and the owner of Mobile PT, based in San Diego’s North County. Mobile PT strives to keep seniors strong and secure, decreasing fear and risk of falling. Our mission is to keep seniors confident and safe where they live to maximize their quality of life and maintain their independence.