Physical activity and physiotherapy for the elderly
Physical activity and physiotherapy as a way of improving the elderly and people with dementia
Starting an exercise activity in your 70s or 80s may sound unusual. But for an increasing number of older people, it may help them maintain their independence longer and reduce the pressure on families, carers and the health and welfare system.
As some of Discubre’s partners companies and professionals say “There’s a lot of evidence that physical activity and exercise are valuable, regardless of age, and that older and weaker people get the most benefit,” says a physical therapist working with older people. “You’re never really very old.”
Nowadays there are always many people living for 100 years and they can still benefit from the right kind of exercise.
Physical activity for the elderly
Prescribing more activities for the elderly is part of a more proactive approach by physiotherapists to prevent loss of mobility and independence. But first, it is important to challenge some of the beliefs about aging among older people, their caregivers, and even some health professionals: “When people start slowing down, it’s not necessarily a part of normal aging.
As a professional partner with extensive experience and services for people with reduced mobility mentioned us, “we need to dispel the myth that nothing is reversible, when in reality for many people muscle balance and weakness problems can be addressed even when you are in your 90s. The impact of a carefully adapted physiotherapy regime can be significant, in some cases, a relatively small contribution can transform lives”.
However, with an aging population that puts pressure on the Health System and social care (the over-65s now account for 70% of hospital bedtime), there is also real financial compensation. There are three million annual falls among the elderly, and the cost to the health system is huge and increasing every year.
According to studies by some health research centers, it is known that almost 40% of those falls could be prevented annually through prevention services run by physiotherapy, which would save a significant amount of money.
A notable success story is in England, where a multidisciplinary fall prevention service at South Tyneside District Hospital offers a “one-stop shop” clinic with joint evaluations by a nurse and a physiotherapist to identify what may be causing patients’ falls and what can be done to help prevent them in the future.
One of the professionals, partner of DISCUBRE, who works as a fall physiotherapist, explains that a process like this includes everything from blood pressure and vision tests to a complete assessment of balance and strength with follow-up programs designed to help.
“As a child, when we develop, we learn to do things like stand on one leg. Often, as older adults, we have to relearn those skills, so we’ll do that with them in a safe environment,” he says.
As another partner tells us: the important thing is to challenge the belief that falls are inevitable in old age.
“Many older adults feel it’s just a natural part of getting older, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I fell, I’m getting old,'” he says.
And there’s a lot of fear. The elderly don’t necessarily want to tell anyone about a fall. They fear people say, maybe they shouldn’t live alone or maybe it’s time for them to go to a nursing home.
We want to encourage them to have that problem, as it is important when it might be something simple to address.
One of the projects developed by one of these companies has had some impressive results: 81% of patients reported a decrease in falls in the six months following the service visit, although it also tells us that the actual figure may be lower since the patients were the ones who gave that information.
However, he says he can see for himself the difference the service makes: It’s wonderful to see one of my patients from one side to the other. “They are so grateful that they have recovered such an important part of their lives and no longer feel like prisoners in their own home.
Physical therapy for people with Dementia
Another area where physical therapy can have a real benefit is with people with dementia where physical therapists can play a key role in assessing the patient’s needs and ensuring high-quality care.
In the opinion of one of the professionals, “When working with people with dementia, you need to be much more adaptable and more creative. You need to be flexible: an older person with dementia will still benefit from exercise, but may not remember to do those exercises,” he says.
However, getting to know the person can really help: finding out what they used to do can be helpful in finding a way to communicate. Then you can get very good results.
In DISCUBRE, a large number of professionals who are registered on the platform can help you achieve an improvement in the quality of life and personalized attention in areas of physiotherapy, speech therapy and/or neurological treatment.