An injury, surgery, illness, chronic pain and reduced mobility motivate many geriatric physicians to prescribe physical therapy in addition to medication and rest. Physical challenges may lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Rehabilitation can have numerous positive impacts on the quality of a senior’s life, especially when family members each commit to play a role in encouraging seniors to start and stick to their physical therapy.
Getting there. Getting to the appointment is often the biggest obstacle for the elderly to start and continue their senior physical therapy. Even if they can do all the exercises at home, it is important they are shown how to do them correctly by a therapist first. Their therapist or doctor should also regularly monitor their progress and adjust the exercise plan if needed. If you or a family member can’t drive your loved one to each session, consider using specialized services, or booking a taxi or an Uber to help them get there.
Explain why it’s necessary. Pain, fear of burdening others or doubt that results are possible can cause elderly patients to refuse or not comply with a physical therapy regimen. Help your loved one understand that rehab will not only help them achieve short-term recovery but also help foster long-term health and independence. Caution them about the possible financial implications of refusing recommended care, such as loss of insurance coverage should their condition worsen because they’ve refused initial treatment and the costs of repeat hospitalization.
Be their advocate. If possible, attend your loved one’s appointments, especially if their cognitive abilities such as hearing or memory are in decline. Be a communications helper. Kindly ask medical staff to speak louder, slower and in simpler lay terms. Ask clarifying questions, and ask for large-print pamphlets or video materials to take home. If needed, ask for more time for an in-depth discussion about what can you and your loved one may expect as a result of therapy, so you can set realistic goals and expectations, including incremental “wins.”
Be their cheerleader. Even if diligent, your loved one may not see the immediate effects of rehabilitation and get discouraged. Point out all the positive changes, no matter how small – even if mom cannot cut her food yet, maybe she is now able to lift a glass of water by herself. If possible, exercise together and make this your quality time – helping you get fitter too!
If your busy schedule doesn’t allow for navigating your loved one’s appointments and daily exercise, short-term senior rehabilitation center may be the right option. Seven Acres, through its Lou Lewis Short-term Skilled Nursing Program, offers post-acute services for those transitioning from hospitals to home. Each resident’s care is customized for their specific needs and delivered by trained professionals.