When people think of physiotherapy, they sometimes relate it to injury recovery or for people that are getting their bodies back in motion from an illness or disease. But what a lot of the general public may not consider is how much seniors can benefit from physiotherapy and related treatments.
The Baby Boomer generation is now into their senior years and it’s important for them to consider what they will do for their physical health and wellbeing. Thankfully, there are quite a few options for seniors when it comes to taking care of their body and movement, most of which are government-funded or supported. For example, those over 65 years of age can qualify for paid physiotherapy treatments from the Government of Ontario through their local physiotherapy clinics. There are also treatments available for those living in long-term living facilities or those who need outpatient physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
In most Ontarian cities, there are also Community Care Access Centres (CCAC’s) that provide free health programs to the public. This includes physiotherapists that will provide in-home treatments or physiotherapy programs that run at local community centres.
So why are there so many options between physiotherapy clinics in Ontario and through community programs? Because physiotherapy is beneficial for the ageing population as an early measure against problems such as:
- Lack of coordination and balance (leading to falls)
- Inability to stand for long periods of time
- Discomfort when sitting or getting up
- Arthritic conditions, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart disease from inactivity
- Bedsores and ulcers from lack of movement
- A decline in mental health with no physical movement
- General pain and stiffness
Using Physiotherapy As a Preventative Measure
As the human body ages, it doesn’t have the same agility and strength as it once did. To keep the body in its best form, Baby Boomers need to spend extra time taking care of their muscles and movements than someone much younger would. Before the body gets feeble, physiotherapists can work with a patient on a physiotherapy program that focuses on muscle strength for walking, sitting and standing as well as balance. Muscles and balance are the two main focuses of most senior physiotherapy programs because they are key to movement and activity. For many seniors, this type of therapy can enable them to live in their homes for longer, walk up and down staircases, showering independently, going out for walks unassisted and even preparing meals.
For Those Who Need Assistance
Some who are either in their early senior years and even those in their late senior years may require mobility devices to move. Walkers, canes, forearm walking sticks, or wheelchairs are common for seniors who are dealing with musculoskeletal ageing or for those who have illnesses or diseases that affect their movements. Senior physiotherapy provided by a physiotherapist allows for patients that need these devices to learn how to use them in a beneficial way for their bodies. They may also work with a patient on movements that don’t rely fully on assisted devices if they believe that the patient can be rehabilitated to move independently. A patient can work with their physiotherapist and the advice of a medical doctor to determine the best reasonable outcome—whether its strengthening and gaining balance to discard the assistive devices or to strengthen and gain balance as much as possible to make movements easier with the assistive devices.
Pain, Arthritis and Incontinence
A Physiotherapist works with a senior patient on areas of pain to encourage better joint and muscle cohesion throughout the body. Problems of physical pain and arthritis can also be addressed with a physiotherapist and rehabilitation program. Oftentimes, inactivity or misuse of the body as we age can further pain and arthritic condition with stiffened joints and achy muscles. Conditions like osteoarthritis that affect the muscle and bone, or rheumatoid arthritis which causes inflammation, can be addressed with physiotherapy and a light exercise routine.
They can also address problems of incontinence, which is often a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles over the years. Incontinence seems to be one of the common signs of ageing, but it doesn’t have to be if the muscles are trained and strengthened. If pelvic floor muscles aren’t engaged throughout the years, it means they lose the ability to contract and expand at a person’s will which causes the problem of incontinence later in life. It can be triggered by stress, a brought on urge to urinate because of flowing water, or a mix of both—which is a mental roadblock that affects the muscles. But if from an earlier age patients work on their pelvic floor muscles, they reduce the problem of incontinence later in life. It also takes out the possibility of surgeries or medications to fix the problem as a last resort.
Seniors patients can also use rehabilitation physiotherapy if they have post-surgery needs. When seniors have surgery, it can lead to a longer recovery time than it does for someone who is their younger and whose cells and muscles have the ability to heal rapidly. After a hospital stay, doctors usually recommend that patients start up on an outpatient physiotherapy program to better their outcome and maintain a high quality of life. While it’s not a good idea for a post-surgical senior patient to be doing everything on their own for a short time after surgery, it is important that they regain the ability to do tasks independently.
Getting Preventative Physiotherapy or Rehabilitation Physiotherapy
Before hitting a point of need for intense physiotherapy or 24-hour care, Baby Boomers should turn to local physiotherapy providers for their health benefits. Even if you are only experiencing a few aches and pains or trouble with mobility, it’s better to address these issues in advance than to let them continue to worsen. Senior physiotherapy is available at our Waterloo physiotherapy clinic but it can also be provided in-home or through community programs. If you have questions about how we can help you create a physiotherapy program, then please contact our office and book an assessment.