It is perfectly normal to find that as we age, our physical health declines. Our muscles tend to weaken, bone density declines, balance becomes more challenging, and dexterity and flexibility decrease. We also find ourselves more susceptible to conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, and Alzheimer’s. While this might be a fact of life, it doesn’t mean that you can do nothing about it. There are measures that seniors can take to mitigate their risk of ailments, falls, and general health decline, and geriatric physical therapy is one such measure. Geriatric physical therapy is an excellent solution for all seniors that are interested in maintaining their health and improving their quality of life.
What is Geriatric Physical Therapy?
Geriatric physical therapy refers to physical therapy for older adults that is designed to help with challenges commonly faced in our elder years. Physical therapy for the elderly consists of a wide variety of exercises depending on the patient’s needs, but the overall goal generally remains consistent: to improve the patient’s health and quality of life.
What are Geriatric Physical Therapy Exercises?
Geriatric therapy exercises vary greatly as they are entirely catered to the specific needs of the person doing them. That being said, these exercises often focus either on balance, strength, endurance, dexterity, and mobility as needed on a case-by-case basis. An exercise regimen will be developed to meet your needs and goals after meeting with your geriatric physical therapist.
What are the Benefits of Geriatric Physical Therapy?
Geriatric physical therapy comes with numerous benefits that are primarily dependent on the exercises undertaken. It can improve balance, build strength and endurance, and increase mobility. Seniors are then able to take these benefits and apply them in their daily lives, improving their comfort, independence, and overall quality of life.
Geriatric physical therapy can also be used to treat specific injuries and ailments, including arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, joint replacements, and fall-related injuries. Geriatric physical therapy can even reduce a senior’s reliance on medication as they combat their ailments safely and naturally through physical therapy.
It is common for those who would benefit from geriatric physical therapy to have challenges with mobility. For this reason, it is often the case that you can undertake physical therapy from the comfort of your home. While availability varies based on location, this is an excellent solution for those who find themselves unable to drive or safely leave the comfort of their home.
What Are The Signs That You Need Geriatric Physical Therapy?
The signs that you would benefit from geriatric physical therapy, while extremely common, are not always easily identified by seniors. This is because, by many, these signs are not considered a sign of a need for therapy; they are simply a sign of aging. In actuality, they are one and the same. Signs of aging are often signs that they could work to either improve their mobility or mitigate its decline through participation in geriatric physical therapy. We have highlighted some of the most common signs that someone might benefit from geriatric physical therapy below.
Trouble With Balance
Having a lack of confidence in your ability to balance is exceptionally common among aging seniors and is a telltale sign that you might benefit from geriatric physical therapy. Troubles with balance can come from a wide variety of causes, including inner ear damage, decreased strength and agility, blood pressure changes, and more. The increase in fall risk becomes even more dangerous when paired with a decrease in bone density as we age. This is why, as we age, we are more susceptible to falling and more susceptible to serious injury when we do. According to the CDC, about 36 million older adults fall each year. One out of every five of these falls results in a serious injury, including broken bones or head trauma.
While a cane or walker can be used to improve stability, balance, and mobility, they don’t actually address the source of the problem. To truly address the root of the problem, we recommend visiting a geriatric physical therapist. They can help improve balance and coordination and reduce your risk of falling through an exercise program specific to your needs.
Decreased endurance is extremely common as we age. According to a National Institute of Health publication, a person’s muscle mass decreases by approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30. This rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. This, paired with a decline in performance in our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, can lead to increased fatigue and lower endurance.
Low endurance can make itself known in many different ways. You might find it more challenging to stand up, lie down, or take a walk. You might find that unloading the groceries has become more taxing than it used to be. If you have experienced a loss in mobility or endurance, we recommend geriatric physical therapy. You’ll work with a geriatric physical therapist who will provide an exercise regimen to meet your current abilities and help improve them for a greater quality of life.
Joint Stiffness Or Other Discomforts
Many people with joint stiffness believe that this stiffness is a sign of age and overuse, which can then lead them to believe the only option is a surgical replacement. Unfortunately, this is not an option for everyone, depending on the state of their health. Those looking for a less invasive solution should turn towards physical therapy. Geriatric physical therapy can be a powerful tool for alleviating stiffness and discomfort and can improve your range of motion and reduce swelling.
New Injury or Physical Diagnosis
The most obvious sign that a person should pursue physical therapy for the elderly would be a new injury or ailment. For many, physical therapy is recommended by a doctor or physician in the wake of a new diagnosis. Physical therapy can be used to help bring people back to 100% after numerous different injuries and ailments, including:
- Broken bones
- Torn ligaments
- Joint replacements
- Balance disorders
- Ankle sprains
Just as the ailments and injuries that can be treated with physical therapy vary greatly, so do the degree to which you can expect results. For example, physical therapy can be highly effective in the aftermath of a sprained ankle. However, when physical therapy is used for those with cancer, it is focused on decreasing pain and improving comfort, not as a true form of treatment for cancer. Regardless, geriatric physical therapy is hugely beneficial in both instances and can significantly reduce comfort and improve mobility for people with a broad range of ailments, injuries, and disabilities.
If you or someone you love can identify with one or multiple of the signs noted above, we highly recommend that you consider physical therapy. Physical therapy for older adults has numerous benefits, including improved mobility, balance, and strength. Improving these attributes can have major impacts on your overall wellbeing and can help you increase your independence in your golden years. If you or someone you love might benefit from geriatric physical therapy, we recommend speaking to a physical therapist to find the optimal solution for you.