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Ask an Expert: What’s the Benefit of Physical Therapy for Seniors?

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An interview with Matt Cassidy, Director of Therapy Services at Bethany Village

When an older adult experiences an injury, an extended illness that requires hospitalization, or elective surgery such as a knee replacement, their doctor will often recommend they receive physical therapy treatment after being discharged from the hospital. Physical therapy helps to improve mobility, manage pain, restore strength and balance, and recover from their illness or injury while preventing future injuries. Physical therapy can benefit people of all ages, but it can be particularly helpful for older adults.

Inpatient senior rehabilitation facilities such as the Bethany Rehabilitation Center were designed to help older adults recover in a healing, supportive environment. With short-term nursing care and a full range of therapy services, the Bethany Rehabilitation Center is dedicated to helping older adults recover from cardiac procedures, joint-replacement surgery, falls, accidents, and other major illnesses.

Understandably, some older adults feel anxious or nervous ahead of their therapy sessions, especially if it is their first time. After all, rehabilitation is a highly personal matter. Learning how physical therapy benefits older adults and understanding what to expect from therapy treatment can help seniors and their families feel more confident about the rehabilitation process.

To learn more about the benefits of inpatient physical therapy and how it can help older adults, we recently sat down with Matt Cassidy, the Director of Therapy Services at Bethany Village.

What is the intake process like for a patient coming to the Bethany Rehabilitation Center?

There are several different paths that people come to the Bethany Rehabilitation Center. A physician’s order is needed to treat patients and Bethany Village residents in the Bethany Rehabilitation Center, but we often get inquiries and questions from older adults and their family members, at which point we refer them to talk to their primary care doctor. Then, we can evaluate their needs after they receive a physician’s order.

Patients also come directly to the Bethany Rehabilitation Center directly from a hospital stay, whether it’s an extended illness, an accident or injury, or an elective surgery. A benefit for current Bethany Village residents is that we always have a private room in the rehab center open for them. So, if a resident find themselves needing inpatient therapy services, they can rest assured that they won’t have to leave the comfort and familiarity of the Bethany Village campus.

What are some of the primary benefits of physical therapy for older adults?

There are many great benefits of physical therapy, especially for seniors. Physical therapists work primarily on increasing strength, range of motion, flexibility, and coordination. We’ll focus on building leg strength, improving gait, and improving balance through stretching, therapy exercises, and modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound. These interventions can help to relieve pain and inflammation and improve circulation, all of which can help to enhance their recovery. Physical therapy is also beneficial as a proactive way to prevent falls and injuries by improving one’s strength and balance. For someone preparing for a joint-replacement surgery, receiving physical therapy before the surgery occurs can help them become as functional and strong as they can be going into the procedure. 

Along with physical therapy, what other types of therapy treatments are offered at the Bethany Rehabilitation Center? How do you determine which of these disciplines a patient needs?

In addition to physical therapy, we have expert occupational and speech therapists on staff. There are also nurses and caregivers on staff who help patients with tasks such as bathing, dressing, meals, and medical services such as medication management.

For every patient, our interdisciplinary team comes together to evaluate their needs and create a personalized treatment and discharge plan. In many cases, this involves both physical therapy and occupational therapy. While physical therapy is about movement and strength, occupational therapy is about functional mobility. Occupational therapists work with therapy patients on activities of daily , such as getting dressed, meal preparation, grooming, and housekeeping tasks like doing laundry or dishes. The goal is to help the patient complete these everyday tasks and independently as possible. Speech therapy often comes in when we recognize the patient has trouble with speech and vocalization, cognitive deficits, or problems with swallowing due to a diet change. An advantage of staying in the Bethany Rehabilitation Center is that all of these therapy disciplines are offered in one place.

What is a typical day like in the Bethany Rehabilitation Center?

Therapy is offered six days a week, and sessions are usually split up during the day. For example, a patient may have one therapy session in the morning, then they have a break and eat lunch, and then another session in the afternoon. In between their therapy sessions, patients have time to themselves to take part in activities happening on campus or to just relax. Our life enrichment team meets with patients to find out what they enjoy and how they can connect them to activities or entertainment that suits their interests. For example, we have a rolling library so patients can choose a book to read or audiobook to listen to while they recover. There’s also a beauty salon on campus that rehab patients can visit.

What is the importance of support for older adults recovering in an inpatient rehabilitation center?

Therapy can be a long and difficult process, so having support from friends, family members, and other resources is essential to keeping spirits high for therapy patients. Visitors are welcome to come to the center to keep their loved ones company between therapy sessions.

At Bethany Village, we’re centered around the philosophy of Faithful Caring, which means we care for the whole person in mind, body, and soul. For those who require spiritual services, a chaplain is available to meet religious needs. The social workers at Bethany Village are another great source of support. They work to connect patients and their families to resources and options they have available as they’re transitioning home from rehab care. Ultimately, we want to support therapy patients throughout their short-term rehab stay by helping them remain focused on the positives so they can meet their goals and resume an independent or mostly independent life when they return home.

When choosing an inpatient senior rehab center, it’s important for families and therapy patients to feel comfortable with their therapist and with their therapy environment. That’s why the Bethany Village team is available to answer any questions you may have about rehabilitation and physical therapy. Contact us today to learn more about the therapy services offered at the Bethany Rehabilitation Center. We would be delighted to speak with you and schedule a tour of our facilities.

Written by Bethany Lutheran Village

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