Physiotherapists have a broad scope of practice, and within that scope is providing care to the aged population. Physiotherapists interact with the aged population in several settings, including within aged care facilities, emergency care settings, community group therapy, private practice, home care, and inpatient and outpatient hospital care. Physiotherapy can be foundational to the wellbeing of this demographic in several ways. Here are a few ways that physiotherapists can help the elderly population:
- Improve functional capacity, musculoskeletal health, and general conditioning.
It is very important that the aging population continues to maintain physical activity to facilitate good health, independence, and mental well-being. As we age, it can be difficult to engage in independent physical activity as there may be many barriers to participation. Pain, mobility concerns, community access, health concerns and fear can limit the aged population from participating in activities that are beneficial to musculoskeletal conditioning, fitness, general health, and functional capacity. Physiotherapists can work with the elderly population to assess functional capacity and fitness parameters to design a tailored exercise program that is achievable, enjoyable and goal oriented. Exercise can be a great way to treat pain and restriction, improve independence and prevent adverse events associated with a decline in physical capacity. Physiotherapist guided exercise can occur in a group setting, which is great for social engagement, within the home which can help with ease of access, and within a variety of clinical setting, including the pool, to accommodate for varying levels of capacity.
- Falls prevention
As previously discussed, regular exercise is important for functional capacity and strength and conditioning. Of the upmost concern to the aging population is falls prevention. As well as working with elderly patients to improve strength, cardiovascular endurance and general fitness, physiotherapists can assist with targeted interventions to address balance and mobility to reduce the incidence of falls. Purposeful, supervised exercise within the home, clinical setting or pool can help to improve functional parameters that contribute to balance. Education can help the elderly to make considered decisions within high-risk environments and falls education can assist elderly individuals to avoid or recover from an incident of a fall.
- Pain management
The aging population commonly experiences persistent pain which can be a barrier to activities of daily living and community participation. Persistent pain can bring about substantial psychological burden, disturb sleep, and reduce quality of life. Physiotherapists can work with the elderly to develop strategies for managing pain, provide short term relief of aches and pains through various modalities and educate patients about pain to reduce the interference it has with daily living.
The aged population are quite often candidates for orthopedic surgery, both elective surgery such as hip joint and knee joint replacements, preventative care such as coronary artery bypass surgery, and emergency care such as cardiac surgery and fracture management. Physiotherapists are integral to post-operative care in the way of assisting with restoration of mobility, function of the injured area and cardiorespiratory health after anesthetic. Physiotherapists will be apart of your management team within the acute, inpatient and outpatient setting. Elderly can also sustain injury that does not require hospitalization but a short stint of independent physiotherapy to restore function, capacity and overcome associated pain, just like everyone else!
These are the most common ways that physiotherapists can provide care to the aged population. Depending on the environment in which physiotherapy care is provided, treatment will serve a purpose that aligns with patient goals and capacity. If you are interested in how aged care physiotherapy may benefit you or a family member, get in contact with our team today.