People usually end up in physical therapy as a result of an illness or injury that affects mobility in some way. Many seniors in skilled nursing care suffer from conditions such as osteoporosis, decreased muscle strength, or arthritis, that limit their ability to get around easily and without pain. Strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and infections can also put a damper on movement. Unlike their younger counterparts, older adults who find themselves sedentary for an extended period of time have a much more difficult time bouncing back, and many find that their limitations worsen over time until they are permanently and seriously physically disabled. Long-term care facilities often offer seniors physical therapy in order to help them regain the strength and flexibility needed to maintain their independence. In addition to being physically able to take better care of themselves, physical therapy for seniors also offers many emotional benefits that improve mental outlook and the overall quality of life.
How Mobility Affects Mental Outlook
As humans age, their physical health often suffers. Cognitive and physical impairments can cause seniors to no longer be able to complete Activities of Daily Life (ADLs). When this happens, it can be accompanied by feelings of helplessness and despair as these individuals are forced to rely on other people for their basic functions. What begins as difficulty or pain when walking may quickly escalate to discomfort standing or even sitting upright. Suddenly, an independent adult is unable to prepare food, groom themselves or even go to the bathroom without assistance. Along with feelings of disappointment and embarrassment, these adults may become withdrawn, sad, and even clinically depressed. The less hopeful they are, the more they may keep to themselves and not seek out help, creating a vicious cycle of worsening mental and physical health.
Mental Benefits Of Physical Therapy
Though physical therapy for seniors will not usually restore their mobility to its youthful state, it can increase their ability to perform the most important tasks. Priority is given to functions that enhance independence, such as the movements needed for walking, food preparation, and personal grooming. These activities that we take for granted in our younger age are highly valued and appreciated as we get older and they are not a given anymore. Furthermore, physicians generally agree that the amount of daily exercise one gets is directly related to your overall feeling of well-being. Even light to moderate exercise has been proven to relieve pain, loosen muscles, and relieve stress, contributing to a more positive overall outlook and an increased motivation for social activities. Seniors physical therapy can be done one on one with a physical therapist or as part of a group. Any type of workout, even simply engaging in activities such as walking, dancing, or gardening, releases serotonin and dopamine, simultaneously providing pain relief and a feeling of euphoria. In this way, the act of being active provides a form of relief in and of itself. Being able to do more independently also provides a sense of hope where perhaps none existed before, allowing patients to envision a future that is brighter than their current circumstances, no matter how much time they have left.
Contact Princeton Health Care Center today to learn more about how physical therapy for seniors and skilled nursing care work hand in hand to create the best health outcomes for all residents and patients.