As we grow old, our body undergoes many physical as well as mental changes. These changes include a decrease in bone density, reduced muscle strength, and increased body fat. Elderly individuals may also experience poor coordination and stiff joints that affect their mobility and balance, making them more likely to fall. These deficiencies can have a big impact on their daily lives and independence. To reduce this impact, one should consult a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist helps geriatric individuals to maintain their health, well-being, functional ability, and independence. Physiotherapy treatment techniques are well-suited for the challenges that accompany aging. In this blog, we have discussed various factors that prevent people from being active and independent, and also find ways of overcoming them.
Benefits of Physiotherapy
The physiotherapist starts by carrying out a detailed assessment to determine the specific areas that may be having an impact. This assessment would typically include looking at the strength, range of movement, balance, and walking. The physiotherapist then uses this information to address the areas that are deficient and designs a tailor-made program.
These include treating diagnosed age-related illnesses, as well as the general annoyances experienced as we age. Here's how physiotherapy can help to improve the overall health of elderly patients.
Decreases Pain Level:
The physiotherapist can treat illnesses, such as pain, joint problems, and stiffness and adopt a delicate and sensitive approach during physiotherapy. Pain is decreased by using different electrical modalities like cryotherapy (ice packs are used for 15-to-20-minute sessions), and thermotherapy (which relaxes the muscles, improves circulation and loosens stiff joints. Transcutaneous electrical stimulations, Ultrasound, and laser therapy are also used by physiotherapists to alleviate pain, and muscle spasms and relax the muscles.
Improves Mobility and Strength:
Physiotherapists can provide advice on how to safely exercise so that older people can realize the benefits of exercising. The hands-on technique of physiotherapy allows therapists to customize each treatment, for example, regarding the amount of pressure applied. Massage is given for relaxation, improving circulation, and pain relief, it can also include mobilization (i.e. helps loosen tight joints, and increases flexibility), manipulation (fast, forceful movements used to relieve pain and realign bones and joints). Studies have shown that older adults who engage in regular physical activity gain many benefits like preventing joint, reducing high blood pressure, and obesity. Daily exercises and practicing activities like back or side leg raises, wall sits, regular calf stretch, marching in place, wrapping up, wiggling hands and fingers, rocking the boat, and walking heel to toe are proven to be effective for older people, these exercises include strengthening and stretching exercise programs and balance training.
Treating Musculoskeletal Conditions:
Medical conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, and joint replacement, are commonly associated with old age. The physiotherapist can help restore mobility, and fitness by restoring the function of muscles, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Treating Cardiopulmonary Conditions:
Cardiopulmonary conditions associated with the elderly are heart attack, myocardial infarction, and pulmonary conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), etc. The conditions can be treated and prevented by physiotherapy by increasing endurance and functional independence.
Treating Neurological Conditions:
Neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, brain injury, or stroke are common in elderly people. Through physiotherapy, these patients are taught to adapt to impairments in vision, mobility, balance, and muscle loss so that the patient completes the activities of daily living more easily.
A safe and supportive environment like handrails near stairs, non-slippery floors, and spacious areas without hurdles, more light near stairs, and coloring the steps with alternating color patterns can prevent falls. Walking aids are also provided for people with foot drop, spinal injury, stroke, and other health issues which hinder mobility. These aids make them as quick and steady on their feet as they used to be and improve their ability to be independent. Environmental adaptations have to incorporate the principles of work simplification and safety, e.g., toilet signs on washroom doors, putting the cup sign on the cupboard, and replacing the buttons of dresses with velcro fasteners for activities of daily living independence. For elderly who require support for walking are also provided with types of equipment such as walking aids to facilitate independent living.
Better Mental and Emotional health:
Exercises have also been shown to improve the mental and emotional health of elderly individuals. Physiotherapy aims to improve the overall well-being of each person being treated. Issues like social difficulties sleep problems and even just the challenges of day-to-day life can be lessened through physiotherapy services. During the assessment, the physiotherapist needs to understand the cognitive impairment (memory, attention, learning, concentration, language, thinking, the cause of dementia, and depression. Functional training is given where the activity is broken down into simple components, repetition along with kinaesthetic cueing is an effective technique for teaching proper functional movement patterns. For the elderly having dementia, sensory stimulation has improved their quality of life as they are able to interact with other people in a meaningful way. Stimulations like activity by giving cues occasionally (e.g. Does this picture remind you of something? Does this surface feel smooth or rough), is provided to enhance independence and self-esteem. For depression, the individual is advised to spend at least one hour outdoors every day, like sitting in a park or going for a walk where the person gets to interact with other people which helps to improve mental health.
Less dependence on medication:
Older people are more susceptible to illnesses like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Physiotherapy is a great alternative to harsh medications, especially for older adults suffering from digestive or immune system intolerance or serious side effects. Even for incontinence, Kegel exercises are ideal to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Obesity is one of the main risk factors for the elderly, doing exercises daily helps with weight control and also reduces the risk of suffering from various conditions related to obesity.
Improves quality of Life:
Physiotherapy includes specialized techniques that can improve the quality of life of older individuals. Exercises are taught that increase mobility and flexibility, and when done regularly, boost overall health levels and reduce the effects of aging on the body. It helps lower the risks of a fall or damage caused by one.
Therefore, physiotherapist provides professional services combined with a healing touch and promotes comfort and care for elderly patients, this has an impact on the patient's physical recovery as well as also has a positive influence on their emotional well-being.