Geriatric physical therapy exercises mainly focus on the osteo-skeletal system. Let’s take a closer look at the roles required of PTs
How do physical therapists treat geriatrics?
Unlike young people, it is difficult for geriatric patients to improve or quickly restore their physical functions, and it is necessary to prevent the changes in physical and mental functions that accompany aging.
Therefore, the main goals of physical therapy for geriatric patients are to maintain existing capacities and improve quality of life.
When providing physical therapy to the elderly, it is important not only to understand their bodily functions. But also to fully understand their living conditions, their personality and the type of life they have led.
In addition, many elderly people may be reluctant to participate in rehabilitation because they are already elderly. So, it is necessary to consider mental aspects such as increased motivation.
Required roles of a physical therapist (PT)
With the baby-boom generation reaching 75 years of age or older in 2025, the role of physical therapists in the medical, preventive, and nursing care areas is increasing.
Let’s take a closer look at the roles required of PTs in each field:
1- Role in the medical field
The role is to help patients who have been hospitalized due to injury or illness recover from their pre-injury physical abilities and gain independent ADL (activities of daily living) capabilities that do not require nursing care.
As we become an aging society, there are two changes will occurs:
- The number of older people who need nursing care will increase.
- The burden on caregivers will inevitably increase.
Therefore, it is imperative that physical therapists play a central role in supporting healthy older adults who do not need nursing care.
Geriatric patients are less able to recover than younger people. So, it is necessary to approach rehabilitation with more specialized knowledge and skills.
2- Role in prevention
The role of physical therapists is to improve the ADL ability of geriatrics patients with doing exercises and to gain a ‘power reserve’ of ability.
Unlike older adults who are hospitalized due to injury or illness, older people who live at home do not have opportunities for rehabilitation or exercise.
Therefore, it is necessary to improve the ADL capacity that he currently possesses by:
- Providing appropriate rehabilitation.
- Geriatric physicl therapy exercises through daily services and community events.
In addition to the minimal ability to live independently, it is also important to acquire the “standby capacity” to prevent injury and disease.
3- Role in nursing care
The role required of PTs in the nursing care field is to maintain physical function and select appropriate welfare equipment.
Geriatrics people in nursing homes are those who find it difficult to live at home due to illness, injury, or family circumstances. The reality is that it is difficult to dramatically improve or recover physical function through rehabilitation due to age issues.
Therefore, it becomes important to “maintain” the existing functions.
In addition, it is also necessary to select appropriate welfare equipment such as canes and walkers, and in some cases to propose housing renovations for people to return to their homes.
Physical therapist (PT) image required with geriatric people
As we move towards a super-aging society, the required image of PT is also changing.
Until now, specialized knowledge about disease and function was required, but from now on, “PT who can think and support the patient’s life together, not just disease and function” is required. .
Compared to young people, it is difficult for the elderly to significantly improve their mental and physical functions, and their roles within the family are becoming smaller. For elderly people who do not have a role in the home, they become reluctant, wondering, “Is it okay for me to get well and go home?”
Therefore, in order for the elderly to participate in rehabilitation happily and enthusiastically, it is important to understand the life of the elderly themselves, find a role, and consider the life after returning home.
What are the most important recommendations?
Physical therapy for elderly patients goes far beyond treating the muscles and joints of older adults. After all, the focus is on promoting well-being and improving the quality of life of these residents, which requires a physical therapist to understand the idiosyncrasies and special characteristics of older adults. It is therefore recommended that a physiotherapist for the elderly:
1- Know the goals of treatment
A physical therapist for the elderly should perform a complete anamnesis, identifying pre-existing diseases, complaints, and potential future problems that may affect each patient.
Therefore, before suggesting any treatment, the habits and routines of individuals should be taken into consideration, in order to develop targeted and personalized treatments.
2- humane care
All professionals who interact with the health sector must prioritize humane care. In the case of geriatric physical therapy, it is recommended that the physiotherapist establish a relationship with the patient, because in many cases, older adults are frustrated with the limitations of aging and need a welcome treatment.
3- Suggestion of group physiotherapy
The physical therapy of aging, when performed in a group, cooperates with the socialization of the elderly, promoting the physical and emotional well-being of patients, as well as favoring the emotional bond. However, it is necessary to evaluate who directs the treatment, according to the particularities of each person.
4 – Hydrotherapy exercises for geriatric
The exercises performed in the water are very useful for the geriatric patients, especially in performing various and complex movements. Therefore, hydrotherapy exercises is recommended in geriatric physical therapy, as it cooperates with re-education of paralyzed muscles and encourage performance of other activities.
5- Learn about pre-existing diseases
Older adults may have some more serious health conditions that require special care from a physical therapist. For example, patients who have suffered a stroke should undergo treatment to restore motor activities, with the aim of improving the individual’s independence and quality of life, without ignoring the boundaries of the disease.
Therefore, for each of the cases, the physical therapist must use a set of specific techniques, without generalizing the treatments. It is often recommended that geriatric physical therapy work in conjunction with other medical specialties, such as neurology and geriatrics themselves.
What does geriatric physiotherapy treat?
The elderly are more likely than young people to develop certain types of pathologies of the order:
- Degenerative diseases.
Geriatric physical therapy exercises field is usually multidisciplinary and aims to provide, in the same way, different specialized skills, in order to cover each sector and guarantee the recovery of the elderly both from a physical and psychological point of view.
Given the complexity of geriatric pathologies, they require the interaction between different physiotherapy specialties among which we find:
- Orthopedic rehabilitation.
- Vascular etc.
Geriatric physical therapy exercises mainly focus on the osteo-skeletal system, the first to suffer from degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. People affected by disabling diseases and most of the time chronic, affecting the nervous system and the musculoskeletal, cardio-respiratory and circulatory systems are also involved.
For a complete performance it is also associated with general and orthopedic surgery. It also aims to prevent the reduction of mobility and the progressive entrapment, as well as the onset of decubitus.
What improvements can I have with geriatric physiotherapy?
In particular, thanks to the implementation of guided or self-help exercises, it is possible to restore functional gestures to carry out the simplest daily activities, such as:
- Reach upright or wheelchair independent.
- Maintain a good sitting posture by strengthening the core muscles
Thanks to physiotherapy the elderly person can also obtain a correct posture, trying to prevent the appearance of joint deformations.
By reinforcing and teaching the correct execution of specific gestures, it is possible to improve the ability to move, guaranteeing greater autonomy in the journey.
Exercise allows you to delay some things and get others, let’s see what they are:
- Delay the onset of fatigue
- Increase resistance to stress
- Increase the intensity of the activities carried out
- Get more distance while walking.
The main objective is:
- Ensure the greatest possible independence for the elderly.
- Make them self-sufficient or able to cooperate as much as possible with those who take care of them.
- Providing well-being and relief from perceived pain and difficulties.
The suggested activities also play an important role in maintaining psychophysical well-being. It also made the elderly feel more independent and “young”. In addition to improving the perception of themselves and promoting more serenity.
Geriatric physical therapy exercises
Breathing exercises for geriatric patients
It is important not only to maintain good lung condition. But also to help control anxiety, as controlling breathing directly affects our emotional control.
These exercises involve the use of ventilation patterns for breathing. In the context of respiratory physiotherapy, there are several modes used which include controlling the inhale (inhale) and expiration (letting the air out. Some require the inspiratory phase to be kept longer or shorter and others require it to be held longer). Longer or shorter than the expiration stage.
Exercises for upper limbs
It can be done in different ways and with some equipment such as a ball, an elastic band and dumbbells. The movements of raising the arms, bending the elbow and diagonals are recommended.
Exercises for lower limbs
For this group, it is necessary to stimulate strengthening exercises:
- Quadriceps muscle.
- Great glutes.
- Triceps muscles.
Because these are the main muscle groups responsible for helping older adults to walk. Their usefulness is so that they can sit and get up from a chair or armchair so that you can climb slopes or stairs and go down. That is, it is always important to give priority to functional exercises.
Geriatric physical therapy exercises for spine
These exercises are very important to ensure that many movements of the body are performed without pain. Since the spine connects both the upper and lower extremities.
Pelvic inversion and reversion exercises improve and maintain movement in the lumbar spine. Also, they can contribute to pain relief in this area.
Trunk and balance exercises
The goal is to realign balance and improve stability in the orthopedic posture, which is important for posture.
The exercises include circuits that are tuned with obstacle avoidance and body displacement in:
- Lateral direction (from side to side).
- Anterior-posterior direction (from front to back and vice versa).
As an advance, it is added that objects are kept on a surface that the elderly person carries during the flight. All of this requires a lot of focus, coordination and postural balance. It ends up being a fun activity generally accepted by older adults.
Physical therapy exercises to stretch geriatric patients muscles
Stretching exercises help stretch the muscles and improve blood circulation. It can be performed on different muscle groups in the body as long as it is performed under the supervision of a qualified professional to avoid injury.
- Regular exercise, especially for geriatric patients, is extremely important in maintaining health, quality of life, and longevity.
- It is important that the exercises are performed taking into account the peculiarities of each elderly person. Take care of range of motion, load used and turnaround time.
- There should be help from a qualified physiotherapist. As he knows the precautions to be taken to perform each exercise and, when necessary, make adjustments to it.
This time, we have introduced the role that physical therapists (PTs) are expected to play in the super-aging society.
Let’s take a look at the final summary.
After 2025, when the baby boomer generation will be 75 years old or older, the roles required of PTs will change in the medical, preventive, and nursing care fields.
Therefore, in the future, there will be a demand for PTs who can not only acquire knowledge and skills suitable for each field, but also provide rehabilitation that understands and supports the elderly.
By all means, please refer to this article and try to acquire the role required of PTs for a super-aging society.