It’s a well-known fact that the elderly are more prone to injuries. Whether these injuries are a result of an accident, surgery, or illness, physical therapy is always recommended to aid in their faster recovery. But you might be wondering – what exactly is physical therapy?
For starters, physical therapy is not age specific. It is recommended for both children and adults post injuries. Sometimes, it is also used to treat chronic pain. Physical therapy essentially involves exercises that help in restoring one’s health after an injury. The exercises help in improving the range of motion, reducing pain, and strengthening the muscles. When one is able to regain their strength, it will directly translate into a better quality of life. It is far from a ‘quick fix’ though. For physical therapy to be effective, one has to put in a lot of time and effort in recovery.
So here’s how the procedure of physical therapy usually goes. After a specialist completes the treatment, a physical therapist recommends certain exercises that can be performed at home. A child or adult would, in most cases, be able to complete these exercises fairly easily. Seniors, on the other hand, require assistance in performing these exercises. This is where the role of a home caregiver comes in. A caregiver can help the elderly in performing the recommended exercises completely and carefully. The job of a home caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it does come with its fair share of risks. Mistakes can arise in the form of miscommunicated care instructions, and sometimes even injuries. To protect oneself from any such unforeseen liabilities, it would be useful to get an insurance for caregivers. Click here to learn more.
If you are a home caregiver, interested in knowing the best way to help the elderly in physical therapy, this article is for you. In the following sections, we’ll go over certain things you can help your patient with during physical therapy. Let’s dive right in.
How to Support Elderly in Structured Physical Therapy
1. Help with Transit/Transport
During the ongoing treatment, the biggest difficulty encountered by seniors is attending multiple appointments at the rehab clinic. Some have difficulty getting in and out of the car, while others might not be able to drive at all due to health-related seasons. The role of a caregiver becomes really important here, as they can help seniors with safe transportation to the physical therapist. Besides helping them meet their physical therapist on time, the transportation assistance provided by a caregiver also provides the family with peace of mind. Knowing that their loved one is taken care of, they can maintain their schedules and continue with work as usual.
2. Provide comfort
When a senior first starts going to the inpatient rehab facility, they might struggle to perform new exercises. Since it’s highly likely that they will surrounded be by a few people, they might even feel anxious or embarrassed to do these exercises in front of an audience. If they could perform the same exercises in the comfort of their homes, they might feel more at ease. A caregiver’s assistance can be very useful here. A home caregiver can provide them with the support they need to perform their exercises successfully. The comfort of completing their physical therapy exercises at home will also help in faster recovery.
3. Motivate them
The exercises involved in physical therapy can often be challenging, as of result of which the patient gets discouraged. This is because each exercise involved in physical therapy helps in stretching muscles and pushing joints. Sometimes, the patient might also feel that they aren’t recovering from the exercise as quickly as they should, even after following the PT routine. This can cause them to stop exercising altogether. The role of a caregiver becomes quite important here, because they can motivate them through the slow days. They essentially become the patient’s cheerleader, pushing them to complete their exercises each day.
4. Help them perform the exercises safely
Certain exercises involved in physical therapy require balance, and if the patient is tired after performing these exercises, it can make them vulnerable to falls. To ensure that the seniors perform their exercises safely, a caregiver can monitor them while they are completing physical therapy. The steady hand of the caregiver during the exercises helps in preventing any falls at home. It is a caregiver’s job to help the senior pick the safest place at home to perform the exercise, which provides them with a certain amount of support.
5. Heat & Ice therapy
Heat and ice therapy is an important part of the senior’s recovery after an injury. In this therapy, heat and ice packs are applied to joints or muscles. Although it sounds fairly simple, it can be quite challenging for most seniors. For instance, if an elderly had a knee or hip replacement, going to the fridge to retrieve an ice pack can be a struggle. Sometimes, they might also find it difficult to put their leg in a comfortable position. With assistance from a caregiver, they’ll be able to get proper heat and ice therapy.
6. Coordinate with healthcare professionals
Caregivers can also help in coordinating care with healthcare professionals like doctors and physical therapists. Since a caregiver usually spends a lot of time with a senior, they are able to see where they might be struggling. They can also help the seniors in identifying the best way to make faster progress, after consulting with healthcare professionals.
7. Reduce chances of hospital readmission
The primary goal of a caregiver is to prevent any form of injury at home while the seniors are undergoing physical therapy. After an injury or a major medical event, the patient is prone to falls, which can even be deadly in some cases. With a greater risk of accidents, they might have to get readmitted to the hospital. The caregiver’s job is essentially to avoid such a situation from arising.
8. Give them a little celebration
Anxiety and stress are common for seniors during physical therapy. Caregivers can also arrange a little celebration from time to time to lift the spirits of their patients. This celebration can be something as simple as a lunch or a walk.
With this, we’ve covered all the ways a caregiver can help their patients in physical therapy. It’s amply evident that the love and care provided by the caregiver can play a huge role in aiding faster treatment. When seniors are recovering from an injury or illness, what they need is the kindness and patience of someone who understands their issues. A professional caregiver knows how to provide them with all of this.
- Cemental, M., n.d. How Caregivers Can Help with Physical Therapy Exercises. [online] Caringseniorservice.com. Available at: <https://www.caringseniorservice.com/blog/how-caregivers-help-with-pt-exercises> [Accessed 15 August 2022].
- Zhdanova, J., 2014. 3 Important Tips for Caregivers from a Physical Therapist. [online] Ezrahomecare.com. Available at: <https://www.ezrahomecare.com/home-care-blog/3-important-tips-for-caregivers-from-a-physical-therapist> [Accessed 15 August 2022].
- Emoha Blogs. 2022. Caregivers can Support Structured Physical Therapy Exercises. [online] Available at: <https://emoha.com/blogs/lifestyle/caregivers-can-support-structured-physical-therapy-exercises> [Accessed 15 August 2022].