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Geriatric Rehabilitation: Physical Therapy Treatments & Exercises for Seniors

Did you know that 1 out of every 5 adults over the age of 65 years experiences a fall resulting in an injury, such as broken bones or a head injury? Today’s seniors are living longer and more independently than ever before, but as we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes. We become more likely to develop various chronic conditions such as arthritis, dementia, osteoporosis, and heart disease. While these conditions are no longer considered “elderly” ailments, they often require special care to manage effectively. This article will provide you with everything you need to know about geriatric rehabilitation in physical therapy.

What is Geriatric Physical Therapy?

Geriatric rehabilitation is an interdisciplinary field that includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language therapy along with other aspects of geriatric care. It is the assessment, treatment, and management of individuals typically above 65 years of age with functional limitations due to chronic disease, acquired illness, injury, or other health conditions. There are various geriatric rehabilitation interventions that seniors can benefit from depending on their condition. These include reducing pain, improving mobility, reducing dizziness or falls and functional ability so they can return to their homes and daily activities as safely and quickly as possible.

What are Common Injuries in Geriatric Patients?

Injuries in seniors are common in part because their bones become less dense as they age making them more susceptible to fractures. Their muscles also atrophy and change with age, so they are not able to support the bones in the same way they did when they were younger. Changes in joint cartilage (a cushioned surface between two bones) makes it easier to sustain a painful injury such as a cartilage tear.

The most common injuries and impairments among older adults include:

  • Fractures
  • Joint Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Back Pain

These conditions are often a result of a combination of aging-related changes and/or frailty, coupled with a lack of proper care and/or lifestyle choices and often require expert intervention. At Twin Boro, our physical therapy experts provide customized geriatric rehabilitation to help patients regain mobility and function.

What Are the Risk Factors for These Injuries?

While aging is invariably the primary risk factor, it also an unmodifiable one. Here are some modifiable risk factors for injuries in this population:

  • Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk of falls, fractures, and knee pain.
  • Arthritis: Different types of joint pain affects more than half of adults over the age of 65, and the likelihood of having arthritis increases with decreased activity as one ages.
  • Poor nutrition: A poor diet can cause fatigue, low energy, and muscle weakness, leading to falls and broken bones.
  • Inadequate exercise or improper exercise: Seniors should avoid high-impact exercise, such as running, and choose low-impact activities that are easier on the joints. A great simple activity to do is walking.
  • Inadequate medical care: If you have chronic conditions, you will need to make sure you receive proper treatment and follow-up care from your physician and physical therapist.

4 Categories of Physical Therapy Interventions for Seniors

Physical therapy interventions can improve strength, endurance, mobility and flexibility in older adults suffering from chronic pain or recovering from an illness or accident. Physical therapy for the elderly incorporates several interventions, such as hands on manual therapy, exercise and activity programs, and modalities including electrical stimulation.

Here are 4 geriatric physical therapy interventions:

  • Exercise and Activities: Therapeutic exercise and activity programs tailored to a senior’s specific goals and mobility limitations are designed by a physical therapist experienced in geriatric physical therapy. These programs include what can be done by the individual at home or in the community to improve range of motion and strength the affected muscles.
  • Manual Therapy: This includes gentle soft tissue and joint mobilization and stretching by a skilled geriatric physical therapist to control pain and improve motion.
  • Neuromuscular Reeducation (NMR): This is a hands-on approach to treat and manage soft tissue injuries and retrain impacted muscles to improve coordinated movement.
  • Other modalities: An ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice, cold, laser and other interventions may be suggested to decrease pain and inflammation of the involved joint.

4 Categories of Rehabilitation Exercises for Adults

Exercise is designed to both maintain and improve a person’s coordination, muscle strength, flexibility, and physical endurance—as well as balance. Experts in geriatric rehabilitation suggest methods and techniques to produce changes consistent with the diagnosis, prognosis and the individual’s goals.

Here are 4 common geriatric rehabilitation exercises:

  • Range of motion exercises: These can be first done in the hospital bed or at home once you are ready to get out of bed. They can be done while standing or sitting in a chair as slowly or quickly as you deem fit. You should try to stretch as far as you can comfortably. If you feel pain, you should stop or return to where it was comfortable.
  • Strengthening exercises: You can do these exercises in your bed, in a chair, or sitting on the floor. You should lift something heavy enough to make your muscles feel a slight resistance initially. Start slow and slowly increase the weights. You should ask an expert physical therapist how much and how often to do them.
  • Balance exercises: If you feel unsteady, it may be risky to walk. You should consult a geriatric physical therapist to help you regain your balance with different types of exercises and activities. Physical therapists teach the proper use of assistive devices such as a cane or walker to improve your ability to move about safely.
  • Breathing exercises: Breathing techniques can help you relax when you are tense or anxious. You can do them anywhere.

Why is Geriatric Rehabilitation Important?

Geriatric care or geriatric rehabilitation is important because it allows older adults to receive care at their own pace based on their individual needs. It’s a specialized form of senior care that can prevent future injuries and hospital stays. Geriatric Rehabilitation help senior citizens to continue with their daily activities and manage chronic conditions with decreased difficulty and dependance.

Does Physical Therapy Take Longer for Seniors?

When you think about physical therapy for the treatment of pain or movement problems, you might wonder how long it will take before your symptoms improve. Physical therapy is often associated with months of care, but this may not always be the case.

The duration and frequency of physical therapy will vary depending on the individual’s current condition and goals; for some conditions, physical therapy may last only a few sessions when learning a program to decrease the risk of falling. Geriatric rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery following a fall will most likely involve several months of physical therapy.

Why Choose Twin Boro for Physical Therapy for Geriatric Rehabilitation?

Geriatric rehabilitation focuses on the issues that concern people as they age, including pain and stiffness when moving. Aging does not have to mean giving up things you love because of these problems; geriatrics is about learning how to deal with them effectively

Twin Boro Physical Therapy provides patients with the best treatment and functional outcomes. It has an established reputation for providing advanced, evidence-based care to meet the needs of each individual patient. Contact us for an appointment!

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