Reviewing Physical Therapy Options With Seniors

Tim Watt  |  March 17, 2014

For many older adults, physical therapy can be a way to rehabilitate or simply keep in shape. Sons, daughters and caregivers alike should be aware of the different ways in which these regimens can benefit seniors, as well as the varied options available. 

Why choose physical therapy?
Doctors recommend physical therapy to seniors for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most common cause is as a form of rehabilitation after an injury or procedure. Physical impairment from trips and falls, as well as surgeries to treat a variety of conditions, can result in limited mobility or pain while moving.

Physical therapy responds to such symptoms by slowly strengthening muscles and rebuilding flexibility and range of motion. These gentle exercises, however, can also be optimal for older adults who simply desire to have a higher activity level. Because they put minimal stress on the body and acclimate seniors at their own pace, such techniques can alleviate fears of injury and increase the likelihood of seniors feeling comfortable with the exercises.

What are the physical therapy options?
In choosing therapy, doctors or specialists may recommend a variety of choices. For instance, patients can be encouraged to work with a physical therapist directly, or receive guidelines and instruction for exercises they can do at home. While the former may be necessary for seniors who have severe impairments or difficult-to-treat conditions, at-home methods may supplement or replace regular visits to a therapist.

When suggesting physical therapy to a senior with a condition, doctors should be sure to carefully outline the recommended motions, and explain their benefits. This can be particularly helpful if older adults are planning to try out these exercises at home, either by themselves or with the help of a caregiver.

How can doctors encourage participation?
Providing a visual explanation of the stretches can also serve as a reminder of the physical therapy's guidelines that seniors can reference from home. Some new technology even allows doctors to project a 3-D model of the adult onto a screen and manipulate the character to exemplify the motions they should be doing. Experts who have used such equipment say it is not only effective and efficient for doctors, but can also make therapy more engaging and fun for seniors. Physicians who are not currently using such technology may want to explore this possibility.