Not all aging adults need to spend a great deal of time in hospitals or under the watchful eye of a doctor. Nor should those elderly persons with limiting or uncomfortable conditions have to avoid physical activity. Geriatric physical therapy is a proven way for elderly parents of all levels of physical ability to build confidence, improve balance and strength, and stay active. There are many additional advantages to physical therapy and your parent may be a prime candidate for receiving it.
Physical therapy benefits
Many people are familiar with physical therapy as a treatment after a serious accident, injury, or condition such as a stroke. However, its usefulness extends well beyond those specific conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health, physical therapy is good for improving strength, balance, mobility and overall fitness. Those are factors that all aging parents could benefit from, as each contributes to the physical ability of maintaining independence for a longer period of time. Your parent is also more likely to avoid falls, which is crucial to the aging population.
Falling is one of the biggest risks facing the elderly, because it often leads to hip fractures, which frequently cause a downward spiral. Falling is such a critical problem with seniors that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a third of all people over the age of 65 fall each year, making it the leading cause of injury for that age group. Hundreds of thousands of older people per year end up hospitalized with hip fractures. Most people who have fallen stay in the hospital for at least a week, and it has been estimated that approximately 20% die within a year of the injury. Sadly, many of the other 80% never return to their pre-fall, independent functioning.
If your parent makes a great candidate for physical therapy, there are options for covering the cost. Those receiving Medicare, like those with other insurance carriers, are usually eligible to receive physical therapy under plan guidelines. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, participants in the Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a program for those over the age of 55 who need community-based care, may be eligible for physical therapy treatment.
Be sure to check with your parents’ insurance provider to see what their policy will cover. Some have cap limits on the amount that can be spent; however, many physical therapists will offer a lower rate to the patient once the cap has been reached, making it easier to continue treatment or have the cost picked up by a second provider. Note that, in most cases, a doctor’s prescription is needed for physical therapy insurance coverage.
Physical therapy helps older adults stay strong and maintain their independence and productivity. Looking into their eligibiltiy and what is available to them is well worth the time.