By Lexi Hamilton-Smith
Physiotherapist at Life Ready Mobile
With the world’s and Australia’s ageing population, it is more important than ever to consider what we can be doing for our loved ones to ensure they remain happy and healthy in their later years of life.
Dementia and chronic condition management
Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but even more so as we age. Due to stigma, misinformation or misconceptions, many elderly people with dementia or other health conditions are not engaging in enough, if any, physical activity or structured exercise. This has the potential to lead to an early physical and functional decline, participation restrictions, increased hospitalisations and reduced quality of life.
Whether it be within a nursing home setting or within the community, physiotherapists are experienced professionals of managing multiple health conditions and providing safe and effective exercise and rehabilitation programs. Physiotherapists can also direct people to community programs such as Living Longer Living Stronger or other local exercise classes that can improve someone’s quality of life. These programs are a great way to maintain and improve fitness in a fun and social environment.
Whether it be an independent exercise program or group class, increasing physical activity in a safe and effective way has so many benefits for the older adult. These benefits can include:
- Improve or slow the decline in performing activities of daily living
- Reduce the decline in functional ability
- Aid mobility
- Improve muscle strength, balance and control
- Reduce the risk of falls
- Manage the behavioural and psychological
- Improve cognition and mood
- Increased sense of wellbeing and quality of life
Everyone can be at risk of having a fall from time to time, however falls in the older population are far more common and can be particularly detrimental. One in four people over the age of 60 and one in three people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year and is the leading cause of hospitalisation1. Furthermore, falls can cause a loss of confidence, increase in anxiety, becoming withdrawn, a feeling of a loss of independence and in some cases injury or death.
Gerontological physiotherapists are at the forefront of preventing falls in elderly populations. Our assessments examine risk factors that are both intrinsic (e.g. balance, strength, cognition, vision) and extrinsic (footwear, walking aids, environmental hazards) to each individual case. From there, we are able to deliver specifically tailored individualised exercise interventions involving walking, strength and balance components.
For the risk factors that fall outside our scope of practice, Life Ready Mobile physiotherapists are able to liaise and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team for referral onwards for specific risk factor management as required.
For many people, their first port of call when experiencing pain is to reach for some analgesic medication. However, for the best management of pain, a multi-faceted approach is required. With such a large proportion of the geriatric population experiencing pain, this is where physiotherapists can step in to help.
With an extensive knowledge in pain, therapists are able to step in to perform pain assessments, recommend if heat or ice is indicated, perform massage or other manual techniques. They can also prescribe specific exercises, specific to the client.
Furthermore, we are able to empower our patients or clients with the knowledge and skills to self manage their pain, including strategies such as goal setting, monitoring and pacing.
So there you have it. Physiotherapists aren’t just in clinic treating musculoskeletal and sports injuries, we are also in nursing homes and on the road, aiming to improve the lives of our grandparents and parents! For a personalised, caring and comprehensive home assessment for your loved one, contact our Life Ready Mobile team today.
- AIHW: Bradley, C. (2013) Trends in Hospitalisations due to falls by older people, Australia 1999-00 to 2010-11, Injury Research and Statistics no. 84. cat. no. INJCAT 160. Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129543591