October 10, 2022

Physical Therapy for Seniors: When It's Needed & How To Find It

Physical therapy is often associated with recovery from surgery or significant physical injury. But, physical therapy plays an important role in the overall health of seniors, particularly as it relates to maintaining independence and quality of life. In fact, people over the age of 65 make up the largest demographic of physical therapy patients.

As physical therapist Elyse Sallman puts it, “Aging is hard! It is our responsibility as physical therapists to make it a little easier, a little less painful for our patients.”

So when should seniors seek out physical therapy? And where should one find providers?

When Seniors Should Consider Physical Therapy

After a Hospital Stay or Prolonged Illness

Spending days or weeks in bed can cause muscle atrophy. In fact, scientists at Johns Hopkins found that for every day of bed rest in the ICU, muscle strength was between 3 and 11 percent lower over the following months and years. Physicians will often recommend physical therapy, or even a short-term stay in a rehabilitation center, to help build back any lost strength and range of motion.

After a Fall or Stroke

Regardless of if the fall resulted in a visit to a doctor, a fall can be disorienting, not to mention painful! A fall is a useful signal to seek out physical therapy. Providers will work on building strength to help promote healing and, just as importantly, help avoid future falls. Plus, physical therapy can restore lost confidence.

After a Diagnosis

Many diagnoses have implications for balance whether caused by the issue itself or the medications prescribed to treat it. From Parkinson’s to Multiple Sclerosis to Alzheimer’s, there’s no need to wait for noticeable physical changes. The sooner and more consistently physical therapy can be integrated, the better.

After a New Prescription Causes Balance-Related Side Effects

Whenever a new medication is prescribed, talk through the potential side effects with the prescribing physician. If any of the side effects are related to balance or falls, it’s time to seek out physical therapy to proactively build strength.

Anytime

There’s no time like the present to build strength, and there’s no need to wait for a doctor’s order to begin a physical therapy program. Therapists, such as those at EmpowerMe Wellness, are often willing to complete a screening to assess your limitations and risks. The therapist can then request a referral from your physician based on their findings.

How to Find a Physical Therapy Provider

So you’ve decided it’s time for physical therapy. Now what? Here are a few places to start when looking for physical therapy providers.

  • Insurance Company Referrals: Your insurance company will likely have a list of preferred or covered physical therapists to choose from. No matter how you select your physical therapist, contact your insurance company ahead of time to make sure you understand what your out of pocket costs will be and what paperwork may be required.
  • Physician Referrals: Your primary care physician is a great resource for finding a physical therapist. You’ll likely also need them to sign off on your care plan, so being on the same page with your physician will come in handy.
  • Ask a Friend: Your friends are a great resource for finding physical therapists. Ask about the therapists, the therapy space, how they felt about their care plan and how the facility worked with insurance.

Physical therapy is for anyone who wants to increase or maintain independence and quality of life. Here at EmpowerMe Wellness, physical therapy is a key component in our mission to improve the lives of seniors which is why we provide integrated, on-site physical therapy that reflects the residents’ goals.

Additional Physical Therapy Resources for Seniors:

Medicare and Physical Therapy  https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/physical-therapy-services

AARP Q & A: Does Medicare Cover Physical Therapy? https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/does-medicare-cover-physical-therapy/

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