As people age, muscles become weaker, instability increases, and medical conditions can make everyday life difficult to enjoy. Geriatric physical therapy (PT) helps elderly patients improve their quality of life by helping them build strength, endurance, and stability to avoid injury.
When To Seek Geriatric Physical Therapy
There are many conditions often experienced by the elderly that would warrant working with a geriatric physical therapist. These include:
- Neurologic disorders such as stroke, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, vestibular and balance disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Osteopenia and osteoporosis
- Cancer-related conditions
- Joint replacement and orthopedic surgeries
- Obesity complications
- Frailty or loss of function
What Kind of Geriatric Physical Therapy Treatments Are Available?
Depending upon their conditions, there are several different PT specialties available for treating older adult patients.
- Geriatric physical therapy. Geriatric PT helps patients with a variety of conditions such as arthritis, cancer, joint replacement, osteoporosis, and instability. Designed specifically for seniors, this type of PT aims to reduce pain, improve fitness, and restore mobility and stability.
- Orthopedic physical therapy. Orthopedic PT can prove very effective for those who have injured bones, muscles, joints, tendons, or ligaments or who are recovering from surgery. This type of PT focuses on relieving pain, increasing functionality, building strength, and improving range of motion.
- Cardiopulmonary physical therapy. A good candidate for cardiopulmonary PT is someone who is dealing with the aftermath of a heart attack or heart surgery or who is struggling with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, or other cardiopulmonary conditions. This type of therapy helps the patient work to increase activity, improve strength and elevate endurance.
- Neurological physical therapy. This type of therapy aids patients who are dealing with neurological disorders such as stroke, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. The goal of neurological PT is to help the patient reach a greater level of independence by improving their ability to function on a daily basis.
- Vestibular physical therapy. The elderly can often suffer from issues of imbalance, instability, dizziness, and vertigo. This can sometimes be brought on by a condition known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is caused by small calcium stones in one’s inner ear, which move into the semicircular ear canal, causing imbalance or dizziness. Vestibular PT teaches a patient exercises that improve stability and minimize symptoms.
How Can Geriatric Physical Therapy Help?
Geriatric PT is highly beneficial for older adults even if they’re not experiencing a chronic condition or struggling with pain. That’s because it helps them develop the strength, stamina, and skills needed to maintain a healthy, productive, and independent life.
Geriatric PT can help older adults in many ways, including:
- Restoring mobility to make getting out and pursuing activities easier and more enjoyable.
- Increasing fitness and exercise, which increases energy and endurance.
- Reducing pain to make life more pleasant.
- Improving balance and stability to reduce the risks of falls and injury.
- Reestablishing functionality to maintain an independent lifestyle.
- Enhancing quality of life in order to make every day more pleasurable.
If you or someone you love could benefit from geriatric PT, talk to a physician or physical therapist to schedule an assessment.