Care of the elderly by physiotherapy
Now-a-days physiotherapy is a popular term for elderly people. In Bangladesh, the number of elderly people is increasing rapidly due to the improved quality of life. People above 60 years of age are considered as elderly people. According to the report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, around 7% of the country's total population constitutes the elderly people, but the absolute number is quite significant (about 10 million).
Care of the elderly is important because they are vulnerable to different health problems. The body begins to lose strength, mobility, and flexibility due to the ageing process. But it is possible to take care of the elderly by proper physiotherapy intervention by a qualified physiotherapist.
Common health problems of elderly people may include arthritis, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, stroke, cancer, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, sensory impairments, reduced physical strength and endurance etc.
Benefits of physiotherapy for the elderly
A qualified physiotherapist assesses the overall health condition and decides which exercise programmes are suitable, depending on the fitness and other health conditions or disabilities that affect the ability to exercise. Physiotherapy helps to achieve the following outcomes:
- Physiotherapy reduces pain, prevents joint stiffness and disability associated with arthritis.
- It can improve joint movement, increase muscle strength and endurance.
- It reduces breathlessness associated with respiratory diseases and prevents respiratory complications.
- Physiotherapy helps to maintain blood pressure in normal range. Drugs are prescribed in severe cases, but if the blood pressure is in borderline for treatment, exercise can help in lowering the blood pressure. In case of the patient with hypertension, a physiotherapist can design an exercise plan depending on the blood pressure and other health conditions.
- Physiotherapy helps in early mobilisation and makes the patient as independent as possible depending on the severity of the stroke. It can help to get muscle strength back and prevent disability after stroke.
- It helps to prevent the onset of diabetes or to stop the condition becoming worse. Physiotherapists advise a set of exercise to reduce body fat and to improve how the body processes glucose. Both are key factors in managing diabetes.
- Physiotherapy can strengthen bones as well as muscles that prevent osteoporosis. Bone is a living tissue that can be improved through some exercise.
- Research has shown that exercise can increase the chances of surviving and reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Specialist physiotherapists can also help with problems and possible side effects of treatment such as tiredness, osteoporosis and lymphoedema.
- Physiotherapy treats and prevents pressure ulcers associated with immobility or sensory loss.
- A physiotherapist can help to improve balance that reduces the risk of falling and maximise safety.
Physiotherapy for the elderly is extremely useful and safe. It can make the elderly independent and help them in maintaining a physically active life if they receive physiotherapy from a skilled and qualified physiotherapist.
The writer is a neurodynamic specialist and clinical physiotherapist at BRB Hospital Ltd.